ASA represents the interests of fishermen

This article originally appeared in the Northwest Herald, August 2, 2016

NorthwestHeraldBy STEVE SARLEY – sports@nwherald.com

I’d like to ask you for a favor. And, don’t worry, it’s not going to cost you anything besides a couple of minutes of your time.

Go to the website keepamericafishing.org, the public part of the American Sportfishing Association, and click “Join us.” They ask you a couple of questions, such as name and address, and that is all.

Let me explain why. The ASA is a group that represents the interests of the entire fishing industry: manufacturers, retailers and professionals. Keep America Fishing represents the interests of the fishermen.

“Lobbyist” is a word that carries evil connotations in today’s society. It makes you think of shady back-door deals and political bribes for fat-cat corporations to buy influence in Washington and Springfield. In some cases, that might be correct. But in many cases, lobbyists are important because they protect the rights of the little guy on a much larger level than the little guy can do for himself.

The ASA and Keep America Fishing explains, “Recreational fishermen are the champions of our waterways. With 46 million anglers in the U.S., we put over $48 billion into the economy and employ over 800,000 Americans. When we speak out as a united community, we ensure that conservation and fisheries management are a top priority in the halls of Congress and beyond.

“Keep America Fishing is your tool for keeping track of the issues ahead of us and the pathway for taking action. Help influence policy both in your home state and across the country. It’s time we stand together.”

So, what do fishermen need representation for, anyway? Well, believe it or not, our rights to fish are being constantly challenged and threatened.

You might not see it much on a local level, but in the big picture of things, it goes on all of the time. There are governmental bodies that are always trying to restrict the practice of fishing in various areas.

Unfortunately, these bodies usually don’t differentiate between sport fishing and commercial fishing. Commercial harvest can sometimes wipe out a specific species of fish in an area while sport fishing usually won’t put a dent into the numbers.

Someone has to be vigilant that the rules are properly written and imposed.

Keep America Fishing works tirelessly to protect our rights and also to protect the waterways. Currently, it is battling to attempt to stop an initiative that would allow the operation of a mine that would have an extremely negative effect on the pristine Boundary Waters area between Minnesota and Ontario.

If it wasn’t for the work of a group such as this, the mine would be up and running before anyone even recognized what was happening. The beauty of the Boundary Waters would be destroyed without anybody puting up a fight.

So go to keepamericafishing.org and read about some of the issues facing the fishing world. A lot of the things the organization is battling seem to make little to no sense. I am talking about things such as restricting angling from Biscayne National Park, the eradication of bass in California waters because they are an “invasive species,” and lowered red snapper limits in the Gulf of Mexico.

Keep America Fishing also is heavily involved in things such as the battle against Asian carp headed toward our Great Lakes from the Mississippi River, the battle against the use of ethanol that can have a devastating effect on boat engines and also fighting environmental groups that are attempting to ban the use of lead in the manufacturing of fishing tackle.

All of this is “hot button” stuff that can have a significant affect in the way we fish, and it is important we get behind this initiative.

I was on the Mayor Daley Lakefront Fishing Advisory Committee in Chicago for a few years. It was amazing to see the issues that threatened fishermen come onto our docket on a constant basis.

There were groups that didn’t want anglers to be able to access the harbors. There were groups that wanted the fish cleaning stations removed. There were groups that wanted to eliminate parking lots for fishermen. It was always one threat after another.

And that was just about Chicago. Can you imagine how many issues there are when you expand your view to a much larger level?

Keep America Fishing is a very important group, and I am thankful it is there to represent us.

• Steve Sarley writes about the outdoors for Shaw Media. Write to him at sarfishing@yahoo.com. Steve does a weekly podcast about fishing called “WeFishASA.” You can find it at www.wefishasa.com