A federal-level task force appears determined to develop a rushed policy that will ultimately govern anglers' use of public waters, including the likely expansion of no-fishing zones into the Great Lakes. Any such recommendations will be met head-on by BASS and several other sportfishing advocacy groups.
Representatives of the sportfishing community collectively provided extensive input to the Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force for its interim report. When that report was released Sept. 17, it was obvious that information was ignored. A couple of the groups' key objections to the interim report are the lumping of recreational anglers in with the commercial fishing industry and the fact that sustainable use is passed over for preservationist policy.
"There's a huge difference between the impacts on the resource from recreational fishing versus the commercial fishing industry," said Chris Horton, BASS director of Conservation. "One of the biggest concerns we have is that the task force doesn't even recognize that there is a difference. They also fail to mention recreational angling as a sustainable use. The highly successful North American model of fish and wildlife management has been based on the sustainable use principle and shouldn't be continue to be ignored by the taskforce.
"As anglers, we have been largely responsible for funding fisheries management since the early 1950's. We are the first to be involved with any effort to restore troubled fisheries. We've always been supportive of healthy oceans, lakes and rivers," said Horton.
Another big concern is the report's inclusion of the Great Lakes, making it the first time that freshwater fisheries have been thrust into the marine sanctuaries or protected zone discussions, he said.
"Once they start on a freshwater path, it opens to further restrictions," he said.
Besides BASS, the fight is being led by the American Sportfishing Association, Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation, Shimano, Coastal Conservation Association, and Center for Coastal Conservation.
In a memo dated June 12, President Barack Obama created the task force "In order to meet our nation's stewardship responsibilities for the oceans, coasts and Great Lakes " according to the interim report. Obama told the task force to come back within 90 days with an interim report, then follow up with a full report. Obama gave the task force 180 days from June 12 to " develop, with appropriate public input, a recommended framework for effective coastal and marine spatial planning."
"Spatial planning" is a fairly broad, ambiguous term and opens the door for various interpretations and restrictive measures, said Horton. In the interim report, the meaning appears to relate to no-take marine protected areas, or MPAs, which usually ban recreational use including sportfishing along with commercial use.
The topic is covered extensively online at www.Bassmaster and ESPNOutdoors.com. More information can be found here and here. Another extensive piece is slated to appear in the November issue of BASS Times.
To see the interim report, go to the White House's Interim Report of Task Force.
FRIENDS AND RIVALS
Pam Martin-Wells of Bainbridge, Ga., and Juanita Robinson of Highlands, Texas, have a lot riding on the Oct. 16-18 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Women's Tour Championship in Shreveport-Bossier City, La.
With points earned at the championship, either Martin-Wells or Robinson could emerge as the 2009 Toyota Tundra WBT Angler of the Year. Going in, they lead the 20-angler points race, Martin-Wells just 21 ticks ahead of Robinson.
Both want that AOY trophy for what it brings a new Toyota Tundra and a berth in the 2010 Bassmaster Classic as well as for what it means. Both want the AOY prize so much, in fact, that it was worthwhile to them to put in 10 days scouting the championship competition water, the Red River.
By coincidence, they ended up staying at the same place in Bossier City, across a narrow driveway from each other.
So how do rivals handle such a sticky situation? They get together to watch ESPN2's three-hour coverage of the Bassmaster Elite Series postseason. Together they witnessed Kevin VanDam take his fifth AOY title by triumphing over Skeet Reese.
"It was kind of ironic," said Martin-Wells. "Two running for Angler of the Year sitting together watching two running for Angler of the Year.
"There are probably a lot of people who would see that as weird," she said. "Hey, we're both out there doing a job, having fun, and may the best lady win."
Robinson said she saw no reason to be anything but friendly to each other. "We chatted, we watched TV a couple of nights, we had breakfast together," she said. "I was by myself, so her husband helped me put my boat in. She gave me her phone number and told me to call them if I had any problems."
Four Bassmaster tournaments happening over the next four weeks will sew up berths for 12 anglers in the 40th Bassmaster Classic, Feb. 19-21, set for Birmingham, Ala.
1 berth from the Oct. 16-18 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Women's Tour Championship
2 berths from the Oct. 22-24 season finale of the Bassmaster Southern Open circuit
6 berths from the Oct. 28-30 Bassmaster Federation Nation Championship presented by Yamaha and Skeeter
1 berth from the Nov. 4-6 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Weekend Series Championship operated by American Bass Anglers
2 berths from the Nov. 5-7 season finale of the Bassmaster Central Open circuit
The 12 qualifiers will join the 39 already on the roster: 37 through the Bassmaster Elite Series Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings and two Bassmaster Northern Open pros.
Those anglers will complete the 51-angler field for the Classic on Lay Lake out of Birmingham, Ala., where the winner will claim $500,000.