Can Conservation Be Fun?

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Question: I’m looking for a way to get my fishing buddies fired up about conservation and stuff. They think they’re too cool to go to the meetings of our local TU chapter, which they see as kind of an old-guys club. Any ideas?

Paul S., Grand Junction, CO

Fly Fishing Conservation

Wall Hanging by Mary Anne Enriquez (2009), photo by Urban Woodswalker

Answer: When it comes to local stream conservation, the first things most anglers think of is habitat improvement—adding cover, planting trees and shrubs along the bank, or even bigger projects such as building wing dams. But the easiest, and potentially most fun, thing you can do for your local waters is to go pick up the trash that’s been deposited on the banks or in the water over the long fishing season.

How can picking up trash be fun? Make it a contest… even a fishing contest. This weekend, the Lake Ontario Tributary Anglers Council is holding a “Catch and Clean” tournament on New York’s Salmon River. This is a brilliant idea. It’s a real catch-and-release fishing derby, with teams of two anglers vying for prizes, which will be awarded to the longest fish caught. However, in order to enter a fish in the competition, each angler will also have to turn in at least one 30-pound bag of trash he’s collected during the fishing day. That’s a great incentive.

I think it would be fantastic if we could turn this into a trend. Such a competition doesn’t have to be sponsored by a big organization or offer expensive prizes. You and your buddies could hold an annual late-season catch-and-clean contest just among yourselves, and you can tweak the idea in any way you want. You could offer prizes not just for the fish, but for the trash, as well—most collected, biggest single trash item, weirdest find, etc.—and come up with prizes or rewards that would be special within your group.

I plan on organizing one of these tournaments for the Battenkill next fall. Anyone wanna join me?