Outdoor Writers Association of America
Northwest Outdoor Writers Association
This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm

February 9th, 1998

The Responsibility of Opportunity

Away in the Bahamas this week, I thought I'd give our own NWFly a chance to get a view off his chest. Make sure you let him know what you think on the Bulletin Board. ~ dlb

The Responsibility of Opportunity

By NorthWest Fly

Every year I rush out to get the latest and greatest state fishing regulations pamplet ... fourty or so pages containing all the information I will ever need and want to know for the rest of the year on what, where, how and when to fish. My one stop guide ... the first step in wetting the seasonal appetite ... next comes touching the gear.

So here I am with this year's regulations. Pouring through the psuedo-legalese of criptic paragraphs defining what I can fish for, when I can do it, what I can use to do it with, how many I can catch. How many I can have with me at any given time, what permits I need for this one or that, and what I can use to catch them. I soak it up like a sponge in water ... and have to touch the gear again.

Most of us do this, or something similar, to gather information. To prepare ourselves for the water ... the fish. How valuable is this information? Legally very. A better question is how accurate is the information? Accurate in how well the regs support the long term goals of quality waters and quality and quantity of fish. In this area, I have some problems with the way it gets done. As well as what will be the end result: no fish.

For those of us casting for the long haul, it's time we establish the rules of the game. Time to make the theme of the sport: opportunity through responsibility. Time to both set the example and hold 'others' accountable for their actions.

How do we accomplish this? For me it begins with an understanding of how the regulations became what they are ... this year. In elementary school we were taught the rule of our government is based on democracy ... the rule of majority opinion. Where everyone gets a vote to defend and represent their view. As we have aged we understand that is a bit naive ... the real truth is, the squeaky wheel gets the grease turns the tide. The louder the squeak, the quicker the response. Within fishing there are numerous groups and organizations squeaking their hearts out.

Conservations groups asking for no fishing, commercials asking for all fishing, business interests asking that the sanctity of the rivers and streams be forgotten and the miriad of others with their own set of concerns. Somewhere in this tangled mess are the anglers who want one thing ... good water, good fish. Is one group completely right ... or completely wrong? No. Each have valid points ... some have extremely valid points with equally extreme solutions (which becomes their main problem in getting support.)

So you have these noisey, squeaky groups all after the same politicians trying to sway the vote in their direction. If the system worked, our representatives (note I didn't use the word 'politician') would carefully weigh the information available on the overall subject. And there is a ton of information ... from the interests groups as well as studies done by the government somewhere, someplace, sometime. From this information, in the best interest of actually solving the problem, these representatives would reach very effective and correct decisions. Life would be good ... not everyone would be happy but tough, honest and correct choices would be made. As we know, this doesn't happen ... often, and then generally it's by acccident.

The system doesn't work because the loudest-squeaky wheel donates the largest sum of money to the politicians to gain their support they grease them to get the grease, so to speak. Taking the money allows our politicians to then honestly lie on a ten-ton stack of bibles that their vote is based only on their personal convictions and in the interests of their constituents. Horse-pucky? No, not really ... they have responded to the loudest voice they know cash.

This is how those extremely difficult to understand regulations get into your local pamplet. Is is also how, in trying to make all of their 'constituents' happy, the actual regulation (more likely than not) has nothing to do with effective management of the water or the fish?

What do we do about this problem? Oh, there a lot of answers to that question ... everything from get involved in your local fishing club to get rich buy an island and enjoy the fishing. None of that is going to get covered in any detail in this article. Though I do recommend you contact TU, FFF or your local group ... they all have their versions of the solution, maybe one is close to yours and you add your voice, and fuel their fire.

An equally important ... perhaps the most important ... contribution happens on the water and what you do with that experience. As you fish, or even just watch the water, learn from it. Spend at least ten-percent as much time learning about the environmental performance of your rivers, streams, lakes and the effect on the fish as you did learning to fish.

When you are out on the water ask yourself a few honest questions. How large does the fish population seem? Are you getting hit after hit after hit ... or are you fighting like mad, using every known technique you thought you had mastered and it's skunk city? Give this review a few shots in your favorite spots. Those places you know well enough to honestly anticipate the results of a day's fishing. When you have the feel of what is actually the case (fish quantity, quality) take a look at the regs and compare. Can you tell who the loudest squeak came from? Is it a fair regulation one based on what the water actually supports?

I have run across those ... from time to time ... and I make a point to send a letter of congratulations to my representative for sound management. I also send the "not so complementary letters" arguing for the water and fish when I find slippery management. These are the majority of my letters. This is how I squeak ... and it only costs me thirty-two cents per letter. Enough of us doing it as passionately as we fish it becomes a roar ... enough to turn the tide and set the standard for our sport and those who wish a part. ~ CK Doyal

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