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The better part of better fishing

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POSTED January 6, 2010 2:34 a.m.
Last year I resolved to be anti-gear, not because it was the time of year where people lie to themselves about making changes, but because it happened to coincide with a .44 magnum and 12-gauge shotgun, among other things that go boom, all that cost money.

I did not give in, though I ordered myself a pair of Simms waders for a price I ... forgot.

But I did a much better job of realizing how little stuff matters. Stuff is stuff.

So without anything resolution-ary going on with the exception of resolving to be a good man, which is always ongoing, I consulted my experts again.

What I got was a buffet of philosophical jargon 50 fathoms deep and impossible to articulate in this space. Alaskans really do read through cabin-fever. I settled on a simpler one.

“Shouldn’t we all strive to be better fishermen?” one of my Alaska-dwelling experts opined.

Who would argue with that?

But what does it mean to be a better fisherman? Catching more fish would suffice as a definition, but does that really make a better fisherman?

Does a great scorer make a great basketball player? It is an aspect of the sport, but to truly be a great basketball player, coaches will stress defense, rebounding, hustle and attitude. As Charles Barkley said, “Any knucklehead can score.”

Edward Hewitt famously bragged about catching 1,200-1,500 pounds of trout in two days near Yellowstone in the late 1800s. Would we consider him a sportsman? Fisherman? Selfish butcher, because who the heck needs that much fish?

The 120 pounds of salmon I brought back from Alaska was plenty.

There is a depth to sport, including angling that qualifies as the “better” part of the resolution.

Forget matching hatches, picking the perfect plastic or never losing a salmon, as anglers we assume the responsibility of conservationist whether we like it or not.

Otherwise we would all be like the frontiersman that left many species nearly extinct.
Fishermen and hunters still get blamed for plenty when they are largely responsible for the rehabilitation, restoration and protection of huge swaths of land in the state.

Not everyone that hunts deer, pig, elk, rabbits or fishes are slobs. Plenty are, and that’s why it looks like the Stanislaus River is cutting through an old landfill. So yes, part of the stigma of fishermen being dirty is warranted.
Deer hunters stalk prey on private property, outside their zones, or straight up poach, so again, the stigma is justified to a point.

But all it takes is a sour-faced anti-outdoorsman to see a responsible fisherman or hunter to help change the tide.

We should all then strive to be not only better fisherman, but hunters and outdoorsmen and women in general, and it has nothing to do with what we put on the table, or pluck from the water.

Being better fisherman or hunters includes at least being aware of issues such as the Pebble Mine in Alaska that could impact the world’s largest sockeye salmon run, not to mention all the other salmon, trout and tranquility that come with it.

Wolves in Montana, drilling in Colorado, water pumping to Los Angeles, it all impacts us. People should come first, of course, but some of these issues require level-headed outdoorsmen and women.

Help people understand that yes, it’s nice to save wolves, but when wolves are decimating moose populations, something should be done, even if it is from a helicopter. Protecting wolves, to kill moose in unbalanced numbers doesn’t make as much sense as attempting to facilitate balance.

Once the wolves are saved at the expense of moose, then what? Protect moose and livestock by killing wolves? That’s what put wolves on the endangered list to begin with.

On an everyday level, we can be good stewards of these resources by taking only what we need or intend to eat. Reduce trauma to fish released, follow regulations and become educated on situations.

Yes, we should all be better fisherman and hunters, but that might mean we forget about the trophies and think more about the future.

To contact Jeff Lund, e-mail aklund21@gmail.com.
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