Love fishing? Of course you do. Love the environment? Who doesn’t? So when was the last time you stopped to think about how your regular fishing adventures may be negatively affecting the planet?
Even if you’ve never considered the correlation between fishing and environmentalism, don’t worry – the following are five easy steps you can take to make sure the fishing equipment you use and angling practices you enjoy are as eco-friendly as you are.
1. Check Your Fishing Gear
Using environmentally sound fishing equipment is one of the most important yet often overlooked aspects of green fishing. Assess your fishing gear to see if there are any areas in which you might improve. For an avid angler, small changes can add up to a large impact over time.
Tackle: Avoid sinkers or wires made of lead. Although it’s a naturally occurring metal, lead has no biologically beneficial role and can actually pose a threat to fish, waterfowl and other wildlife, according to the United States Geological Survey’s National Wildlife Health Center. Ingesting lead fishing gear can cause behavioral and biochemical reactions, often resulting to death. Instead, choose fishing equipment made from tin or bismuth. Or, if you want to go a step farther, consider biodegradable bait and line products.
Lighting: Anglers who fish in the wee hours or take overnight trips can green their fishing gear even more by using LED lanterns and LED flashlights. The sheer energy efficiency of an LED flashlight makes it one of the most eco-friendly pieces of fishing equipment you can own.
Fishing knives: Select a durable, high-quality stainless steel fishing knife that can be kept sharp throughout the season. The more efficient and long-lasting your fishing knife is, the less waste you will create over time.
2. Minimize Waste
There’s one common hiking, fishing and camping practice that can’t be stressed enough: Pack out what you pack in. Garbage and non-compostable food waste can cause major damage to the ecosystems surrounding rivers, lakes and streams. Keep a small garbage bag in your pack or tackle box, and use it! While you’re at it, pick up any non-hazardous trash you spot along the way and pack it out, as well.
3. Green Your Vehicles
Whether you’re driving a pickup truck to your favorite fishing hole or casting your line from a motorized boat, you’re consuming fuel and emitting pollutants. While this can’t be completely avoided, you can reduce the environmental impact of the vehicles you use when fishing.
Engine maintenance: Poorly maintained engines and motors, whether on a boat or a truck, can add up to significant ecological damage. Outboard motors, especially two-stroke ones, should be regularly checked for leaks. Keep a smooth-running motor in every vehicle you take fishing, and use as little fuel as possible.
Carpooling: If your fishing trip involves multiple people, try carpooling to your destination.
Boating speed: If you’re boating, maintain a slow speed. Strong wakes can cause unnatural shore erosion and upset chemical balances in the lake.
4. Educate Yourself
Keeping abreast of current fishing news and trends is a great way to make sure you are practicing eco-friendly fishing techniques.
Catch limits: Make sure you adhere to the rules and regulations regarding catch limits in your area, as there are usually sound environmental reasons behind these limits.
Catch and release: Overfishing is one of the main causes of population depletion. You will obviously want to keep some of the fish you catch, but regularly doing so is not a sustainable fishing practice. Practicing proper catch-and-release techniques will help you reduce your impact on the ecosystem. Use barbless hooks, get the fish back in the water quickly, and don’t keep any large spawners. If you aren’t familiar with catch-and-release fishing practices, contact your local fish and wildlife department for more information.
5. Spread the Word
Once you’re armed with green fishing equipment and knowledge of sustainable fishing practices, you can help other anglers get on board. Give biodegradable fishing gear or LED flashlights and lanterns as gifts. An angler-to-angler testimonial about the ease and importance of green fishing practices is a much more powerful tool for change than any public service announcement or news report. There are also a number of conservation groups you can join, such as the Native Fish Society and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.
Remember, eco-friendly fishing practices are easy. Hunters, anglers and outdoor enthusiasts were among the first conservationists, and for good reason. Properly respecting the outdoors you enjoy so much is the easiest way to guarantee that it will be around for years to come.
~Ben Nystrom, 2010