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Environmentally conscious angler guilty by association

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POSTED February 25, 2009 4:01 a.m.
Outdoor background noise has more ingredients at times than an $8 drink at Starbucks but, on occasion, harmonizes into beauty.
Saturday’s fishing trip didn’t exactly culminate as such.
Gun shots (which aren’t really a bad thing because I hear them all the time back at home in the days leading up to Blacktail season), cars, and four-wheelers took turns massaging my ears.
I can deal with all that, but the silent stubborn decomposition of non-biodegradable items turned tolerable sounds into irritating noise.
Either a family of 317 and got take-out and were raptured, providing a justifiable excuse or the riverbank was mistaken for a receptacle. If I had garbage bags I probably could have redeemed enough aluminum to save the jobs of a handful of colleagues come cut time.
It was sickening, but all I did to rectify the situation, of course was, to walk around the piles of gifts for the next generation of fisherman and inhabitants, and attempt to hook myself a fish I had no intention of keeping.
The idea of horsing in a fish by the mouth, yanking out the hook and setting it free makes non-fisherpeople cringe. It’s vile, cruel and how would I like it if that happened to me?
Seriously, though, it’s days like Saturday that embarrass me. As we have seen throughout history, people are categorically lumped and not subsequently distinguished.
Saturday I was a murderer of both innocent fish and the environment, because I happened to fish, and fisherman were responsible for, I’m sure, the vast majority of the dumping along the shore.
As an ambassador to a lifestyle saturated in outdoor sports like fishing and hunting, I find myself doing large amounts of damage control on behalf of people I have never met, but don’t share similar ideals.
With no happy cows on the North Slope of Alaska, families must rely on whale to provide oil, food and even studs for homes. So a family brought some whale back from a trip north. I ate some.
I am automatically a bad person, hunted Willy once he was free, and since I like to golf, probably clubbed baby seals with a 5-iron, because people make decisions based on their experiences and misconceptions.
The first time a non-fisherman walks the shores of any river and sees bait containers, Styrofoam, beer cans and fishing line, we are all branded.
Nevermind that fisherman are largely responsible for programs that aim to clean up, protect and help keep native fish populations alive or stimulate returns. Forget about Ducks Unlimited, which provides millions of dollars toward protecting natural habitats for migrating water fowl. If I shoot ducks, I am a messy murderer.
For a few moments on Saturday I believed what those that have no idea say about me. I am a fisherman, and those that are like me completely trashed this river and these banks.
Like me only categorically, but that’s enough for some.
Maybe if I was a little more selfish I would have felt better about the noise and cluttered riverbank Saturday. Nah, I’d rather have a bad day of fishing than be a careless litter-bug that taints the reputation of responsible recreationists.

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