Conservation Station: Calling All Fishermen - Are You a Good or Bad Catch?

By Stacy Martin on May 05, 2012 from Conservation Station via

Whether you fish for sport or fish as a hobby you’ll want to READ this blog! On Wednesday morning (May 2) I went for my usual run and chose to hit the trail at Deegan and Hinkle Lakes. This is one of my favorite spots in Bridgeport and it always makes me stop and appreciate all the beauty West Virginia has to offer. I take great pride in where we live and how beautiful it is, but I wish I could say the same for some of the other people who live in or visit our community.
The GFWC West Virginia Bridgeport Junior Woman’s Club adopted the Saltwell-Shinnston Park n’ Ride as part of the WV Adopt-a-Highway program. Being the park ‘n ride is closed due to construction this summer, our Club members have volunteered to help pick-up trash in the City parks and along the City trails. So after my run on Wednesday I grabbed my gloves and bright orange garbage bag and hit the trail again.
NOT surprising, the trail was exceptionally clean. I know Bridgeport Parks and Recreation work very hard to keep all the parks and trails very well kept, and they do a spectacular job! I also think that the people who utilize the trails are those people doing so for exercise. Thus, if someone takes enough pride in themselves to exercise, then they probably take enough pride in where they exercise not to litter. 
Also NOT surprising was the fact that I DID have to pick up a lot of trash at the small gravel lot at the end of the trail (across from the car wash). Based on the type of trash I picked up from that area, those litter bugs were not utilizing the trail and/or park system, but using the gravel lot as a place to work on their vehicle, eat their lunch, or hang out.  Another area I picked up a lot of trash from was along the roadside (running parallel to the trail but much higher in most spots) – also not a surprise from litterbugs throwing trash from their vehicles.
MY BIGGEST SURPRISE though came from the amount of trash I collected from the edges of the lakes (or tried to but couldn’t reach). I was always taught never to assume anything based on the infamous saying – I think most of you know the saying so I don’t need to repeat.  Boy was this one of those moments that I could call myself an a** for assuming that all fisherman respect their playground! I picked up seals from fishing bait, fishing bait containers, plastic lids, plastic bags (mostly in the water) with empty bait containers, fishing line, beer cans, plastic soda bottles, empty cigarette packs and tons and tons of cigarette butts. More disturbing to me was having to leave some of this trash in or along the water. Either I couldn’t reach it or, as in the case of cigarette butts, there were so many floating in the water or embedded in the ground that I needed a net to collect them all. I truly cannot begin to understand how someone who enjoys fishing could leave such a mess behind. I’m sure they wouldn’t enjoy fishing as much if they had to stand in other people’s trash, keep untangling their fishing lines caught-up in all the trash in the water, or clean cigarette butts off the fish they caught. If you are one of these fishermen – YOU ARE A “BAD CATCH” (I’m certain in more ways than one)!
I do know that not all fishermen are “Bad Catches,” in fact I met two gentlemen during my litter clean-up who were fishing. We talked and they expressed their unhappiness with having to clean off the park benches just so they could sit and fish. What irritated them the most was the fact that almost every bench along the lake has a trash can nearby, and yet they seem to always have to throw stuff out before they can enjoy their fishing-time. These gentlemen were certainly not “Bad Catches”, but what I term as “Good Catches!”  A “Good Catch” not only practices good fishing technique and skills, but is a proponent for the environment and the waters in which they like to fish. Although I didn’t pay particular attention to their fishing technique or skill, the fact they clean up after others and expressed their disgust for those who don’t care for the lakes made me believe they were “Good Catches.”
As well, my in-laws are both avid fishermen with a house on Files Creek in Randolph County, and are also not “Bad Catches.” Every year my boys (and soon my little girl) spend at least a weekend at their house learning and practicing fishing skills all weekend long. Whether they were pond fishing or fishing in the creek, two of the very basic lessons they learned were how to treat their fishing equipment and how to clean and pack-up all of their stuff when they were done. After all, if you don’t take care of your equipment or your fishing environment then you won’t be able to catch any fish – which is not good if it’s your sport and not much fun if it’s your hobby.
So if you are a fisherman, ask yourself: “Am I a good catch, or a bad catch?” In the last several times out fishing have you left bait containers on the edge of the lake? Did you cut your fishing line and leave it in the grass? Did you smoke and put your cigarette butt out in the ground? Did you leave your drink on the edge of the lake because you had other things to carry back to your car/truck? Did you open a can of bait and leave the seal lying on the ground?  Did you break a lure and toss it aside? If you did any of these things then deem yourself a “BAD CATCH!” If you don’t even care enough to ask yourself the question, then not only are you a “Bad Catch” in the fishing sense, but you are probably also so self-involved and egotistical that you are a “Bad Catch” in every sense.
It is understandable that once in awhile someone might unintentionally leave a piece of trash, or the wind blew your trash in the middle of the lake. These unintentional incidents don’t automatically deem you a “Bad Catch.” But if you find that your stuff is blowing away on more than one occasion or you keep forgetting that you left that empty bait container on the bank, then you might have to reevaluate your fishing practices. Take pride in our lakes, your environment, and your role as a responsible fisherman – practice good fishing by securing your fishing materials, remembering where you left things, and making every effort to keep it clean. If you have to, call out other fishermen you see littering. To allow others to litter your waters is almost as bad as doing it yourself. So as we tell our kids: “Be a good catch and take care of your stuff and the water!”
Editor's Note: The cover photo is just a sample of what Stacy Martin picked up when gathering garbage. C'mon fishermen, you're better than this.

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