Anglers Taking Clean-up In Own Hands

A plastic pop bottle floated by me early Saturday afternoon, and then about 5 minutes later, another bobbed its way down the middle of the Skykomish.

My eyes narrowed as I glanced upstream to the guys fishing Hanson’s Hole. Damned litterbugs.

Then again, it was a beautiful late-summer day, in the upper 70s, not a cloud over the Sky whatsoever. How did I know it wasn’t other river users, like rafters?

Back when I was younger, Dad took me and my sisters down the Skykomish a bunch of times. Maybe someone’s canoe had run aground, tipped and all its contents gone overboard.

Voyageurs, most of us are not these days.

And there have been plenty of other summer afternoons when I’ve found myself sharing the river with kids, teens, 20-somethings and parents playing, swimming and partying along its banks.

Wherever there are people, there are messes. Hence society’s need for maids, custodians, garbage men, cleaning services, etc.

But these days it seems as if sport anglers are the only ones capable of making messes.

When I got to work on Monday,I found that Gary Chittim, KING 5’s environmental reporter, had done yet another story.

Following up on his late-August piece on the stinky mess anglers were leaving on the Skokomish, he was now showing piles of litter along the banks of the Puyallup while SkyKING broadcast images of a long skein of sport anglers midstream.

My first reactions were, Damn, what the hell is Chittim’s deal? Why is he picking on us? Who the hell over at NWIFC is feeding him all these story ideas that put us in a bad light?

But was the messenger really at fault?

The bounty of salmon has brought out an uglier side of sports fishing as our ranks have swollen this summer, and while those TV news stories have noted that not all anglers litter or snag, the damage has been done. Our image had been repainted in nasty colors by the actions of some.

Bait containers, lure packages, fishing line and poo along the rivers’ banks for all the world to see and smell will do that.

I’m not going to single out toothless, mouth-breathing, skanky-pink-snagging hillbillies as the culprits. I’m not going to blame Eastern Europeans or Mexicans. I’m not going to defame Gamefishers or NWfishingaddicts either. I’m not going to blame teens. I’m not going to say it’s just new anglers at fault, or old anglers. And I’m not going to blame bait anglers, bobber fishermen or stuck-up purists.

There is no one single segment of Angler Nation that is somehow most deserving of blame and shame for the crap that has stained our reputation — not to mention our favorite resource, the rivers.

It is the individual who makes the conscious decision to litter — and the group that lets it go — who is at fault here.

I have to agree with Smalma (aka Curt Kraemer, the former Snohomish County biologist), who writes about a Tom Nelson post on anglers’ images in the media of late.

“An on point topic though IMHO it is not the media who is the villian here; rather it is us the recreational fishing community. We have allowed our fishing ethics to slip so far that for many of our anglers it is now a ‘right to instance success and limit catches’ by any means. Our ethic is no longer ‘fish first.'”

But I must also admit that this topic is something I’ve held off on writing about several weeks, ever since we stunk it up the Skokomish. Why bring further shame upon the sport fishing community? Why rub our noses in the mess? Just work on the October issue instead.

Indeed, the inertia was towards ignoring it. Or pretend it was just “slob” fishermen. Pretend it only happens in southern Puget Sound. Pretend everything’s fine.

The banks of the Sky where I fished on Saturday were remarkably clean, after all.

Then again, maybe the high water over Labor Day had just swept all the junk downstream or out of sight.

Like the river was carrying away those two bottles that day.

They were too far out to grab, so I watched them spin their way towards the Sound as I tied on a new crappie rig and made sure to keep my line clippings in my backpack rather than the ground.

Perhaps, though, the spot had been cleaned up by other anglers in recent days.

And this is what turned the tide and led me to post this blog.

You probably won’t find this story on the evening news, but there’s a post today on Gamefishin, “Puyallup – Pay it forward.”

Shaynemol reports that he packed out a “big garbage bag full of garbage” from that river this morning.

“I’m writing this because I figure their are a lot of GF’ers out there, just like me, that have packed it in and packed it out, but never picked up someone else’s garbage, but it did dawn on me, “If not me, then who”. I now know that it takes about 5-10 minutes extra and that can pack out a little something each time they go fishing.

I know a lot of people bash the Puyallup, but I grew up by it and now enjoy it because it is so close to home. I hate to see it desecrated by the odd-year crowds.”

Answered BADANDY:

“We had the same problem going on at the Stilly under the I-5 bridge a few years ago. I started doing exactly the same thing as well as others and it DID make a difference. Guys started barkin at folks when they saw them leaving their trash behind. Keep up the work man! We need good press and that it surely a way to get it!! My hats off to ya for doing something about it!!!!”

Added wannafish:

I have done that on the Carbon…the garbage weighed more than the fish.

Codliveroil posted:

I have picked up a safeway grocery bag full a time or two , I think it is inspiring , While I may not bring a garbag bag I will put a grocery bag in my pocket and do it too.

Gonefishin said:

I’ve done the same thing on the Snohomish. I issue a challenge to all Gamefishers to pick up some trash every time we go out. It’s my feeling that if enough of us set a good example. Maybe we can convert some of those litter bugs. If nothing else. Our fishing areas will be cleaner.

The appropriately named Bag’Em congratulated:

WTG Shaynemol, on both the fish catching and trash bagging.

As for my Monday Puyallup report. Scale House – scored 5 bags of trash – 3 large trash bags and 2 grocery bags – plus one broken folding chair. Did not fish – so no catching report. But since no one’s fishing that area, made clean up much easier.

Bag’em and haul’em out!

I don’t know if any old time GFers remember … that is how I got my handle.

I applaud fishermen who clean up their rivers, just as a matter of course. Guys who go out, fish, and then pack out a bag or so of litter. Guys who don’t need organization to get things done — but just think how much we could get done as a group.

You may never be recognized for your efforts, you certainly won’t be paid for them, but you can rest at night knowing you’ve done more than your part to clean the river and in some small way improve our overall image.

Thank you.

You are my heroes today.

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