Ramp Monkeys to help out in New York

WADDINGTON, N.Y. — Anglers and spectators should expect to see some “monkeys” running around the launch areas during the Elite Series event in late July here on the St. Lawrence River and in early August during the Open at Oneida Lake in Syracuse.

More specifically, they will be Ramp Monkeys, young volunteers who make certain that participants comply with new state regulations at take-out to prevent the spread of invasive aquatic species, without impeding traffic flow.

“We solicit help from local youth organizations,” said Fred Blom, president of the New York B.A.S.S. Nation (NYBN).

“We train them in the techniques. We educate them on the basics of invasive species. And then we have them operate lanes in the boat retrieval process in which boaters must stop and implement Clean, Drain and Dry.”

With the recent passage of those regulations that require the three-step process at all ramps, Blom added, the NYBN now is working with PRISM regions to help with education, training and support. PRISMS are the eight Partnerships for Regional Invasive Species Management formed to coordinate efforts statewide in combating the spread of exotics, including plants and mussels.

Barb Elliott, New York’s conservation director, proposed the creation of the Ramp Monkeys in 2011, following the discovery of hydrilla in Cayuga Lake, the site for a New York B.A.S.S. Nation tournament.

“My primary concern was how to go about educating our anglers to help stop the spread, with the indirect goal being an increased positive public perception of our bass anglers in general,” she said.

Besides coming up with species identification cards, she decided to involve youth.

“Even if the anglers did not review the materials we handed out, I knew there was a very good chance their kids might. The thought developed into involving youth groups at each of the B.A.S.S. Nation tournaments during the season, increasing the awareness of our next generation of stewards.”

Since then, she added, the program gradually has expanded and improved, involving not just Junior Bassmaster members, but also Scouts and youth fellowship organizations from churches.