Editor’s Log: It’s Your Problem Too… - The Fisherman

Editor’s Log: It’s Your Problem Too…

Last week I sat in on a Rhode Island town meeting because the town council was weighing their options for restricting shore access to a few key fishing spots in that town. The room wasn’t packed, but there was a solid showing of concerned anglers from all over the area and even few from Massachusetts. Save for two, particularly aggressive, attendees, the meeting was civil and there were many solid points made.

These spots have been open to fishing for decades and no major issues have ever been raised, according to what the town council said. But, over the past few years – and during the 2023 season in particular – there were many issues cited by non-fishing citizens. One lady claimed that she was nearly hooked by an angler casting from a public walkway. Others cited unsupervised children playing in unsafe areas like the edges of a pier, outside the railings, where they could easily fall on the rocks below or land in the heavy current, being swept away in the process. Those living nearby have had to deal with overflow parking on their streets, and have reported several instances of people ducking into their shrubs to ‘relieve themselves’.

These issues hardly seem like strong enough reasons to close a fishing area, as one attendee put it, “you don’t have a fishing problem, you have an enforcement problem.” To me that hits the nail right on the head. If parking areas are overflowing, the town should require a parking pass, turn the problem into a revenue stream. If side streets are lined with illegally-parked cars, get the local police down there and write a bunch of tickets. As far as the lady almost getting hooked on a back-cast, that’s a 50/50 situation, the angler should have been more careful, but if you’re walking up behind an area where people are fishing, you also have to keep your head up! And urinating in people’s yards? I mean, that’s just nasty, we’re better than that!

But all these issues combined don’t add up to the sum of the most often heard complaint and it’s the one that’s impossible to deny. Littering in popular fishing spots is more than just a problem it’s a disgusting display of human indifference. And before you start slinging blame at anyone who is not you, let me remind you that, just like me, you have seen and left thousands upon thousands of pieces of trash along the shoreline—but I will also admit that no one could pick up every piece of refuse they see on the beach. I can think of a few spots where I would literally need to back a dumpster down to the water to even make a dent.

But these places got this way because a bunch of ignorant people threw their stuff on the ground and then the next group of people felt entitled to leave it there, because ‘it was not their problem.’

I am here to tell you that these things are coming to the point now that they have to be your problem. With the cost of shoreline real estate towering into the stratosphere, many landowners feel that their lofty tax bills entitle them to special treatment and they will look for any reason to oust anyone from any place they can see from their bedroom window. And even in places where shoreline rights favor the fisherman, you still need to access the shoreline legally and you still need a place a park and that’s where they’ll get you.

I don’t like it any more that you do. I hate the idea that I should have to mother a bunch of ignoramuses I’ve never laid eyes on and pick up after them because they can’t be bothered or just don’t care. And it absolutely is not fair that all fishermen are getting lumped together as a group that leaves mountains of trash behind, but, as we’re coming to learn, ignorance permits ignorance. And we can’t allow that any more.

The best image we can put forward as a group is to carry in a single empty bag, a shopping bag or a full-sized trash bag, fill it with trash and carry it out after fishing. It may feel like an insignificant gesture, but multiplied out across an entire season, it would really add up. I do understand that it kind of feels like leaving a $5 bill in the tip cup and seeing that no one noticed, but the point is not to have someone recognize that you did something good, it’s making an effort investment in your access to the shore…even if it does also preserve access for the morons you’re picking up after.


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