As a professional angler and guide, if I don’t have clean water and great habitat, I won’t have good fishing.
I recently spent a great weekend in frozen Minneapolis where once a year, the nation’s top sticks in fishing can be found at the National Professional Anglers Association annual conference.
This year’s theme was “Professional and Proactive,” in light of the many conservation issues threatening our livelihood today. It is paramount that the influencers of the fishing industry become further educated and lead the way in our conservation movement to ensure clean and abundant waters for future generations.
Conservation is not just an issue the outdoor sporting industry needs to be worried about. All of society needs to understand the threats that our public lands and waters are under today. From mitigating pollution of the Chesapeake Bay, home of several hundred varieties of fish, to the Mississippi River Delta, still recovering from the BP oil spill, these are the winter homes to over 70% of the waterfowl in the central flyway. We need to be conscious of the harm we are inflicting.
Another issue is our western public lands that are currently under attack to be sold off and managed by the individual state they are in. If history repeats itself, these lands will find themselves up for grabs in a few years for development, mining, and any other way the states can use them to level out their budgets.
We are all co-owners of these lands and waters, just as the public trust doctrine dictates. These land and water resources, as well as the wildlife that resides there, belong to the public. Access and ownership should not be a question. As owners of these natural resources, it is our responsibility to be good stewards and lead by example for the next generation to see. Whether you are a weekend angler or a seasoned trophy hunter, we can all make a difference and our voices need to be louder than ever. Sportsmen and women across the country have a great opportunity to help shape the future of the North American model of wildlife and conservation as we move forward into the 2016 election.
A major contributor to this effort should be and does come from the professional anglers and hunters across this great country. It is very clear to me that the greatest conservationists in this country are the sportsmen and women who live for the outdoors day in and day out. Many of our livelihoods depend on these resources being around for a long time. As a professional angler and guide, if I don’t have clean water and great habitat, I won’t have good fishing. This means, in just a short period of time, I won’t be in business anymore.
In angling tournaments we rely heavily on corporate sponsors to support the sport. With less people fishing and hunting, the corporate sponsors’ rate of return will diminish and soon so will the professional tournament angler. Sportsmen recruitment may be one of the biggest factors that we as the sporting industry can change. The more people we have enjoying the outdoors the bigger voice we bring to the table when our resources are under attack.
Great organizations, such as the National Professional Anglers Association, are just one of many platforms where professionals can come together and further their education on an issue while receiving direction on how to act upon that issue from fellow professional anglers, like another guide, tournament angler or outdoor TV show host.
History has proven that a rising tide moves all ships and as a team of professional outdoorsmen and women, we carry a large load of these issues on our shoulders and it is up to us to lead the way for the public to enjoy the great resources that support our livelihood.