Most Bassmaster.com readers want to know how to catch more fish or what the latest trends are in gear and gadgets. But like the snowball rolling down the hill, there are issues coming at us that are building to huge proportions, and they threaten the future of bass fishing.
You need to know about these threats and get involved in finding solutions.
I’ve narrowed down the list of threats to the top five that I think will have the biggest impact on bass fishing across North America in the next decade.
Number 1: Water Policy
This one is obvious. No water – no bass. But it’s not just about drought. Climate change aside, droughts come and go while some states always seem to have water. The real issues are who owns the water and who can use it.
Long-term water policy that provides for a growing human population and reserves water for fish is missing. Without plans that include recreation (fishing and boating) in the mix, water managers can draw the last drops from their reservoirs with no regard to your fishing. Bass anglers must demand a seat at the negotiating table to ensure that our interests are considered.
Number 2: Invasive Species
The greatest biological threats come from invasive species. Asian carp, zebra and quagga mussels, invasive plants like Salvinia and starry stonewort are expanding their ranges. They potentially threaten ecosystems, infrastructure and economies. In many cases the invaders are not causing harm, but their mere presence gives water managers an excuse to slap on more regulation. Fishing and boating can be eliminated in the name of “prevention.” Your favorite lake could be next. What are you doing to prevent the spread of invasives? Are you setting an example? Do you clean, drain and dry?
Number 3: Loss of Access
Privatization of public resources is cutting off fishing and boating access. Agencies are selling public lands and waters to developers. Entire lakes that are by law “public water” are being closed to fishing and boating. Business, industry and lake associations use excuses about liability and security to restrict access.
Beyond the loss of access to fishing and boating, another important part of this issue is that if the public loses their connection with our natural resources, they will lose appreciation for the resource. In turn, we lose political support, and that snowball continues to roll down the hill.
Number 4: Pollution and Habitat Loss
The days of rivers so polluted that they catch fire are behind us, but much of the progress made following the passage of the Clean Water Act in the 1970s has been lost. Environmental protections have been pushed aside in favor of economic interests. Pollution is on the rise. Chemicals and excess nutrients are causing problems with water supplies, from toxic algae blooms and oxygen dead zones, to bass with hormone disruptions that cause reproductive failure.
Upstream in the watershed, the agriculture community has been slow to adopt proven conservation practices in the quest for greater profits. As a result, tons of nutrient-laden silt are washing downstream and filling in rivers, lakes and reservoirs. There is a crying need for balanced environmental, agriculture and forestry policies that consider watersheds and downstream impacts to fisheries.
Number 5: Apathy and Indifference
Bass anglers are, by and large, an indifferent lot and tend to sit on the sidelines and hope that someone else will take on the challenges that face water resources and fishing. But these threats are too big for a few individuals, or a handful of lobbyists from the fishing industry or conservation organizations in Washington D.C., to tackle. We need a lot more anglers to step up and speak up!
As our society grows more urbanized, people are less connected to the outdoors and nature. They don’t understand the value of conservation. The fishing community needs to engage the broader public with messages about the value of clean water and how healthy lakes, rivers and reservoirs are good for all of us. If the public values the natural world, they will fight to protect it.
What can you do?
These issues are real. They are now. If you love the sport of bass fishing you need to get involved, get organized and get political. Our network of B.A.S.S. Nation Conservation Directors can help channel your energy and get you engaged. The first step is to learn about the issues. Get the facts — then act. Follow the updates on the Bassmaster.com Conservation page or in the B.A.S.S. Conservation Facebook group.