Saving fish from discarded soft plastics

I just got home from doing a public service announcement on an issue that I think bass anglers should take to heart.

The PSA was for KeepAmericaFishing.org, an initiative within the American Sportfishing Association (ASA). KeepAmericaFishing.org works hard to preserve anglers’ rights to fish our waterways.

The group came to me last fall and asked me to help them launch a new program called “Pledge to Pitch it” that is designed to educate anglers and urge them to not toss used soft plastics into our waterways. (You can sign the pledge here.)

This developed after momentum was building within the state of Maine to ban soft plastic use from its waters. There are those who believe soft plastics are a detriment to the environment.

I’m not going to argue whether plastics cause environmental harm, but I do believe we all need to do a better job of cleaning up the debris we casually toss into the lake.

Most anglers don’t throw trash in their fishing waters. We know better and are appalled by what litter we do see in lakes and rivers.

However, we’ve all been guilty over the years of pitching a broken worm or jig trailer overboard when we’re re-rigging. I stopped doing that some time ago, but I have seen others do it.

Aside from it being a basic case of littering, soft baits tossed carelessly overboard can become detrimental to bass that may gulp a slow-falling bait.

When a fish swallows a bait, that lure will absorb water, expand within the fish’s stomach and can create a blockage which will hamper the fish’s ability to digest other food.

None of us want to kill the bass we catch, so let’s avoid causing potential harm to those we don’t.

There’s no excuse for throwing anything in the water that isn’t going to break down immediately. A crusty sandwich is one thing, but old plastics, fishing line or any tackle should be carried to shore at the end of the day.

I encourage you to share this information with other fishermen and convince them to keep damaged plastics in their boats until they get to land where it can be disposed of properly. We have to lead by example.

Now, I know that most anglers toss used plastics on the boat deck, but even those can blow out when you’re running down the lake. I now toss them on the floor of my boat near the passenger seats where they can’t blow out and then put them in my Nitro Z21’s built-in, removable trash receptacle when I have time.

In fact, that’s one of the first things I point out to my fishing partner or marshal when we get in the boat early in the morning. I show them where the trash box is and encourage them to place any sandwich wrappers or soft drink containers in it. They’re also good about policing up the soft baits I toss by the console and putting them in the trash for me.

Some items, like line or plastics, can be recycled. I’ve seen recycle bins in some retail outlets, and I know some bass clubs have set up recycling stations at busy access points. Use them!

As people who are passionate about the sport we love, we need to become better stewards and protectors of our waters. Keeping old baits and fishing line out of the water is a great way to do that.

Remember, it’s all about the attitude!

Kevin VanDam's column appears weekly on Bassmaster.com. You can also find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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