Fishing continues to lure residents to region’s waters
The variety of fish that can be caught around the Chesapeake Bay is incredible. Freshwater creeks, brackish rivers and the Bay proper all support different quarries requiring different types of fishing. There is at least one that is sure to fit almost everyone.
I'm not much of an angler, but for me, catching a fish isn't necessarily the goal. Fishing gives me just one more excuse to get outside and explore. Sure, it's nice to troll on the lower Chesapeake and come back with a beautiful 34-inch rockfish. But a day fly fishing for trout at the husband's "secret spot" can be just as rewarding, even though I'm not very successful.
This sport isn't just versatile, it's also valuable. Fishing helps conserve our aquatic resources. Excise taxes on fishing equipment fund the Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Program. This program, along with fishing license sales, provide most of the funding for state fisheries programs.
The economy also benefits from fishing. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service sponsors a National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation every five years. The most recent survey was conducted in 2006. That survey found that more than 30 million U.S. residents 16 years or older went fishing.
Overall, anglers spent $17.9 billion for fishing trips; $18.8 billion on equipment; and $5.4 billion for licenses, stamps, tags, land leasing and ownership, membership dues and contributions, and magazines.
What is probably most important is that people actively engaged in outdoor activities are better stewards of land and water. Those who fish and boat are more likely to care about and care for their local waterways and the wildlife they support.
Fishing and boating also enhance the quality of life. Many of us were introduced to these activities by other family members when we were young. People can reconnect with each other on the water as they rediscover the joys of being on a boat or fishing together. Lessons about life and the importance of nature are often learned and passed between generations.
There are responsibilities that go along with fishing, boating or merely enjoying the water. Ethics, though, cannot be dictated. They develop with time, experience and interaction with others.
In general, an ethical angler understands and obeys fishing and boating regulations; cares about aquatic and marine habitats; keeps only the fish he or she will eat and properly releases the rest; leaves no trash, even if left by others; uses fish cleaning stations; disposes of fish waste properly; and never releases bait - dead or alive - into the water.
We are all responsible for protecting our aquatic resources. Here are a few things anglers and boaters can do to help keep North America's waters clean:
- Reduce the potential for litter by removing unnecessary packages and wrappings.
- Bring reusable containers to the boat.
- Always bring back everything solid that is taken out, including fishing line, hooks and other gear.
- Empty all trash on shore in garbage cans or take it home.
- Pick up any floating trash one comes across.
Anglers can unknowingly transport aquatic plants and animals from one waterway to another where they don't belong. In new surroundings, the out-of-place organisms are free from the predators, parasites and competitors that keep them under control. They may compete with native plants, animals and fish for food. They may also prey directly on native plants and animals, or spread disease.
The best way to limit introduced aquatic plants or animals from becoming a problem is to prevent their movement from one place to another. And anglers can help:
- Never release unwanted animals or plants into a waterway.
- Always dispose of unused bait (live or dead) into a trash bin on land.
- Learn more about your bait. If possible, use live bait that is native to the fishing area. Know the state's laws concerning the use of live bait.
- Those with a boat trailer should remove any aquatic plants or other organisms that may be on the boat's bottom, propeller or anchor. Many popular fly-fishing spots offer areas where potential "hitchhikers" can be cleaned off boots and waders.
To encourage people to try fishing, the first week in June (June 4-12 this year) is National Fishing and Boating Week. Many states use this time to promote fishing by hosting free fishing days and other events. Here's a list of the free fishing days in states within the Chesapeake Bay watershed:
- Delaware: June 11-12, 2011
- District of Columbia: June 4 - 6 & June 11-12, 2011
- Maryland: June 4, June 11, July 4, 2011
- Pennsylvania: May 30, Sept. 5, 2011
- Virginia: June 3-5, 2011
- West Virginia: June 3-5, 2011
For information about fishing and boating activities, including access areas and events like youth fishing, contact:
- Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation: 703-519-0013 or www.rbff.org.
- National Fishing & Boating Week: www.takemefishing.org
- Public Access Guide - Chesapeake Bay, Susquehanna River & Tidal Tributaries: To order a copy, call 800-YOUR-BAY (800-968-7229) or visit: www.chesapeakebay.net/pub_order.aspx?publicationid=12099
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