Dec 27, 2011
By Mike Pehanich
Loving fishing and caring about its future would seem to be as natural a pairing as love and marriage.
And they are.
But inherent in the mix is the same potential for conflict that comes with intimate connection.
We don’t talk about it much, but serious fishermen harbor a selfish little secret: we want to share our passion for fishing, spread it to others, and welcome the next generation of anglers to the fold, but please don’t ask us to share our favorite fishing holes!
The source of this internal unrest is the ironic truth that while fishermen are falling from the fold every day and comprise and ever diminishing portion of the population, our favorite fishing holes often seem more crowded than ever.
Much of it has to do with the ongoing evolution of fishing and society. As sophisticated tactics, tackle and knowledge of the game spread, more and more fishermen are able to match the planning and execution needed to catch fish in a given body of water. But, in many cases, they can muster the expertise in a fraction of the time it once took top anglers to develop. GPS, sonar, and side imaging technology have opened the underwater landscape to all, and our well-tooled bass boats and arsenals of upscale lures and tackle enable us to hook or harvest the critters whose haunts we can now so effectively invade.
Yet the very sophistication of bass fishing today creates a barrier to entry to those below that threshold of experience and capability.
The sustainability of our pastime and, as many of us would argue, the good of our culture and society – depend on bringing new anglers into the fold. And while we welcome newcomers to the game, we are careful not to share many of our honey holes with them.
Author Mark Strand makes this point in his recently released book Paint the Next Sunrise. The book is a clarion call to seasoned anglers and hunters to help nurture and train angling initiates so they too can experience the joy and excitement and satisfaction of outdoor sports that touch us at the core of our species being.
And who among us has not felt that urge – if not pang of conscience — to protect and sustain an endangered tradition by converting beginners into avid and active participants in hunting and fishing.
The solution calls for sacrifice, but there’s a way to minimize the pain.
Find more waters to fish.
Waters, waters everywhere
We have hundreds of thousands of smaller waters ranging from ponds and small natural lakes to industrial and residential waters, flooded quarries and strip mine lakes and many other small waters with fine – even outstanding bass fishing potential that receive modest to little fishing pressure.
Often these are waters in our own backyards that we pass on our way to work or as we travel at breakneck speed to some distant fishery with a name and reputation. These are waters that can be our own training grounds or even favorite waters that we come to know intimately. They can be our sanctuaries, too, our retreats from trouble and stress – nature’s own spa for the spirit.
They offer quiet surroundings and intimacy that sometimes get lost in the precipitous pursuit of competitive fishing. Moreover, these are ideal places to bring newcomers and young anglers, places where they can learn the basics and, most importantly, stoke that inner fire that connects us with our true selves – man connected with Nature — and keep our sporting tradition alive.
B.A.S.S. founder Ray Scott often cites a figure from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Six times more sport fish are caught in waters of 10 acres or less than are taken on larger waters.
Another mind-awakening fact is that most avid anglers were initiated into the fishing fraternity on such non-descript waters outside the radar of sportfishing media and the angling community.
But where are these waters, and what can we learn about them in advance to enhance our hunt?
The first step is to learn more about local waters, those in your community or within a short drive of home. Purchase a detailed map of your target area. (The DeLorme state map books are terrific!) Some waters will require permission to fish. Most will require good manners, cleaning up mess (yours and others), and exemplary stewardship whether it is demanded of us or not. Always keep in mind that continued access may hang on the attitude and good graces of those who own or govern the land surrounding them.
Also keep in mind that small waters are very vulnerable to pressure and abuse. School others in the importance of respecting the habitat, fish population and surrounding environment. That awareness will go a long way in protecting the future of these fisheries and others as enlightenment spreads.
Small waters can provide countless hours of superb fishing on waters that experience minimal fishing pressure – and cost you little in travel time or money. And they often harbor bigger fish – especially bass — than you ever imagined.
So take a fresh look at small waters fishing – for your sake and for the future of fishing!