Readers Respond

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Fish: Taking issue

To The Editor,

I've got to take issue with some recent statements by Lanny Miller, DNR Biologist, as reported in the "Pilot Tribune!" It seems Lanny has fallen into the same old bureaucratic trap of "Build it, and they will come"! They being fisherman.

Well, maybe they will, but the recent statistics of the DNR and elsewhere suggest strongly they won't! Angler numbers are in steep decline, both in Iowa and many other states across the nation! In fact, the decline is so dramatic, angler recruitment advertisements appear on TV, in magazines, and even on the radio, in places.

When the topic of Storm Lake dredging was first proposed, I was of the opinion, too, that if the lake were dredged deeper, angler use would increase. Now, I'm not too sure. And the reason I'm not too sure that angler use will increase is simply lack of young people fishing in the lake, or anywhere else, for that matter! I'd like Lanny and the DNR take a long look at just who;s fishing, out there on the ice. I'm guessing that many have grey hair.

Few are between the ages of 25-50 or so - the prime child-rearing age. And there will be fewer kids younger than 15 or 16!

I think the DNR, and most other game and fish agencies, have totally "fumbled this ball!" In their blind rush to build, study, and otherwise enhance aquatic resources, they've neglected social change!

Kids of today aren't exactly the same as the kids of 10 - and most certainly 20-odd years ago! They have Xboxes. They have videos - and even videos of other people catching fish! They have a multitude of sports, most of which are indoors and well-supervised. They have just about everything a generation of well-heeled yuppies can provide them - except the internal fortitude to "go fishing"!

Fishing is just about the last thing on a kid's mind when he or she leaves school for the day, I think! If they want fish for supper they prompt Mom or Dad to simply "thaw the fish-sticks!" And, that's social change! People don't much fish for food, anymore, they fish for esteem, prowess as an angler, bragging-rights, or something to hang on a wall-- but not for food!

In fact, not so long ago, even while Storm Lake was in the process of clearing, several anglers were debating on just who they could give their daily catch to! Once one person's freezer filled-up, they just found another empty one, and proceeded to continue to catch fish - but not for their own personal consumption.

Now, obviously, there's a certain amount of illegality involved, here, maybe. And there might have have been some citations issued by the DNR during this time. But the point, here, is that the fishermen surely didn't need, or keep, the fish they caught for their own personal use! They fished for fun or esteem!

In fact, according to some statistics I've seen, a relatively small number of fishermen catch the majority of fish! Especially top game fish, like walleye, bass, musky, and northern. The average angler just doesn't have the time, or inclination, to learn the necessary skill to consistently catch lots of fish.

At one time, kids did! They had time, patience and the desire to catch fish; if not to just feed the family, for "bragging rights" at school! NO MORE!

Now I respect Lanny Miller, and the rest of the DNR crew in NW Iowa for doing an outstanding job with what resources they have available. But, I have to disagree with them, and the entire DNR philosophy of " build it and they will come"! The DNR needs to concentrate on getting the "they" back into statement, first!

Sure, Storm Lake needs an upgraded marina. But, does this bring more fishermen, or more power-boats onto the Lake? I think it might bring more boats, more-so than fishermen. This isn't all bad, either! More boating opportunities bring more spin-off industry to the area. But, maybe not more fishermen!

And, yes, If the marina gets up-graded, and Storm Lake continues to provide outstanding walleye fishing, maybe the pro walleye fishing tour will come! That's an immediate "shot -in-the-arm" to the local economy. But that isn't going to get the local kids fishing! They might come and watch. They might dream of going out on a pro-boat, someday. They might even buy the video of the tour coming to Storm Lake. But, they won't go fishing! Money-wise, who's going to contribute more to the DNR coffers: a one-shot pro-walleye tournament, or, a kid who will buy a license, fishing tackle and equipment, and lures for the next 20-odd years?

Sure, the DNR has a current funding problem due to decreasing license sales and excise tax revenue. Why? Well, while the DNR was diligently doing their job and building natural resources, they didn't have an "outreach" program! Schools didn't invite them in, to explain consumptive natural resource use. But some teachers presented private views of anti-hunting, anti-fishing groups.

Schools don't have courses titled "Basic Fishing", or "How to catch walleye!" Sure, there's books written: but how many kids of today even read!? Fishing is something of an art form; taught by experience, and learned from peers.

And, when was it that you took a kid fishing...?

- Jim Brauhn, Linn Grove