Has fishing gotten more serious, or have I just noticed it more in the last few years?
Has more money at stake replaced the fun, and how much is placed on winning replaced the experience or the camaraderie, especially at the local level?
There are high-dollar stakes nationally and many anglers are making a living at the game, so they have a different purview than someone fishing local derbies and club tournaments. But that, too, may be changing.
Although monies potentially won can be significant locally, and worth fishing for, I believe we might need to dial back a bit and realize — as we have seen with new regulations — that pulling together may be the most important thing anglers can accomplish moving forward.
I have been watching and participating in fishing for a lot of years, and never before have I heard more complaining, seen less etiquette, or had more people upset about little things that really do not matter than the last few years. And, honestly, it is at all levels.
In Illinois, the target was winning, but it now may be working together and doing everything we can to preserve what we have. It seems obvious there are those out there who do not want us to continue. "Be thankful for what we have" has replaced the competition part of competitive fishing for the time being here. Maybe the new fee and tax from the IDNR was a wakeup call.
Since I can remember, I loved the game. The puzzle is the best part. Chasing little green fish, honing my craft and doing a lot of reading, watching videos and spending time on the water was a central part of my life. Learning new techniques that continually change and get better is fun, too. From fishing a worm under a bobber to vertically fishing a spoon or a drop shot, there is always something new to learn.
Budgets are tight, resources are overwhelmed and seeing the things I love being slowed to a crawl or taken away made me take a look at the entire landscape and realize we have to find ways to get our message heard versus just trying to win. We have to be part of the solution versus the problem, and engagement is the key.
I want to feel the joy of figuring out the puzzle again instead of going through the motions. Fishing seems to be under fire from several fronts and, instead of complaining, I am doing my part to get active to protect what we have. Complaining is the rule and it’s a trap. I, too, have caught myself in that trap. Have you? We had better change our tactics.
I realized the “trap” when fishing with a buddy this past fall. He said during the day that we get trapped when fishing by approaching the game the same way with the same things. The most obvious things we attach get beat to death. The biggest tree along the bank, a weedy cove, a brushpile or some rocks may be the easiest things to find success with, but those that are not as obvious are the pot of gold.
We have to approach the puzzle differently moving forward. We have to spread our wings.
Many speak of pressure on our lakes as an Achilles heel for fishing, but could you imagine our small lakes without catch-and-release? Our lakes do not have expanses of unfishable waters, and for the most part anglers fish the same things. It used to be that off-shore was an untapped resource, but with today’s electronics that, too, in no longer untapped.
Nuance in technique is one of the last frontiers and it’s clear habitat, abundant foot supply and managing these fisheries now has priority. With downsizing of the IDNR and a workload that is impossible, it is clear we have to police ourselves and interact with decision-makers at a higher level to have our voices heard. Most lawmakers have no idea what is important to outdoors folks.
Having been involved with the beginnings of youth fishing, my purview is different. I want to leave fishing better than I found it. I hope those reading this do as well. I hear it all the time: “I just want to fish,” but that isn’t good enough anymore. Involvement, volunteerism and making our desires heard is the only way we can get a seat at the table.
There is no better time than now to call your Senators and Representatives and let them know you are not happy with leadership’s direction. Do it today or we will not have the chance to see our kids have what we have been used to. We are on the cliff right now, and the only way to keep from falling off is to be involved.
Happy Thanksgiving one and all.
Photos: Conservation Family Day at Evergreen Lake
Caleb Goewey, Evan James
Miles and Janet Bardell with Bridget
Brent Henkel with a snapping turtle
Brent Henkel, Chip Henrichs, Tom Fairbairn
Jeremy Dose with Hannah and Blake
Jeremy Dose with Hannah and Blake
Lena Caisley helping Calvin Reed
Shooting BB guns
Leah Stratman shooting
Luke Piper being helped by Lena Caisley
Lena Caisley watches as Luke Piper takes aim
Van Grissom, Gerard Gabbard watch as Seth Gabbard fishes
Bob and Brooks Dose
Jenny Henkel holds her goat Beach for a little girl
Tom Fairbairn, Brent Henkel, Ross Fogle, Doug Gass
Josh Yehl, Zach Picchielti, Staci Yehl, Chase Zeller, Peter Yehl
Terry Brown is President of Wired2Fish.com, an industry leading, daily website and social media fishing centered community that provides information on products, industry newsmakers and fishing techniques. You can read more by going to www.Wired2Fish.com.