A Boyd's Eye View: The sport of fishing needs your support.
By Mark Boyd - December 29, 2016
We all know the economy over the past several years has forced a lot of folks to reevaluate their financial priorities. Those of us in the "recreation" industries understand that when a person's disposable income takes a hit, one of the first areas of their budget that gets trimmed back is the portion set aside for recreation. Being that I have spent the bulk of my career in the fishing industry, I have seen the effects of this first hand.
The short-term effects are obvious. Fewer folks purchasing fishing licenses, therefore fewer folks going fishing. That also means less fishing tackle, boats and fuel are purchased, meaning there are fewer taxes collected (like the money collected by the government for the funding of the Sport Fish Restoration program). All this culminates in less money for state-run programs designed maintain and benefit local fisheries.
Folks, its very simple - a good number of our local fishing areas, those that do not naturally support themselves with reproduction, etc, are in a "use-it or lose-it" situation. With less money coming in via governmental means, that leaves the angling public and those that support fishing as a viable recreational sport, life-enhancing activity and economic force in our communities to step up and carry the baton.
The hunting industry has faced very similar issues over the years, and yet in the over-all scheme of things, has not seen as dramatic a drop-off of financial influx and support as fishing has. To me that just seems lopsided, especially when you consider the fact that in the United States there are a lot more people that fish than there are that hunt. However, fishing has seen a much larger drop in participation by percentage than has hunting. Also, non-profit hunting organizations seem to do a much better job of procuring monies to help fund their conservation programs as opposed to fishing non-profits.
As I began looking deeper into this I was struck with the epiphany that fishing needed some help, and it was going to have to come directly from the "rank and file" as well as the companies and industries that benefit from the economic impact that fishing has nation-wide. The hunting industry built the blueprint with organizations like Ducks Unlimited, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and Pheasants Forever, just to name a few.
The answer jumped out at me when I happened to stumble across a "fingerling" organization called Bass Unlimited Foundation. Started by Wil Newlin and his wife Carol, BU (as it's frequently referred to) was established as a 501c3 non-profit in Indiana in 2013. The mission of BU is simple yet determined in scope; To provide resources for conservation, preservation and restoration of fish populations in public accessible waters for anglers of today and future generations. The key to me here is the part about "in public accessible waters ...". I have belonged to hunting non-profits, and the more I looked into where my money was going, the more I realized a good percentage was going to improve hunting on lands that were not public and I would never have access to them. Bass Unlimited is all about improving fishing for everyone, and making it accessible to everyone.
It didn't take the Newlin's very long after starting BU to realize it was going to "get too big for it's britches" if they didn't back off a bit and work to build the infrastructure needed to run a successful organization like this efficiently and effectively. After all, they each already had careers and were not looking for another one. They did however have the passion and drive to fill a niche they felt was desperately needing filled. That process of building the needed infrastructure is now coming together for BU, and even includes your's truly. I am very excited to find a cause that matches my passion and desire to give back to the sport of fishing that has done so much for me throughout my life.
Like many of you that know me can attest to, when asked what kind of fisherman I am I often reply with, "I'm just a jerk at one end of a line, waiting for a jerk at the other end.", which occasionally gets the laugh I was fishing for. But the real point is, I don't pigeon hole myself to just one species or one style of fishing ... I just love to fish. BU is like that too. While the name says "Bass", the "Unlimited" part certainly lends itself to include much more. After all, wouldn't you think that improving bass habitat in a body of water would also improve habitat for other species? And the mission is to preserve and restore fish populations, without the designation of species.
According to the U.S. Department of Interior there are 13.7 million hunters in the country, 2.6 million that designate themselves as those that hunt ducks and/or migratory water fowl. In comparison, those that are counted as freshwater anglers number 28.8 million. Doesn't it make sense that an organization like Bass Unlimited should be able to grow and have at least as positive an impact on fishing as Ducks Unlimited has had on their sport? I certainly think so.
Here are a few more numbers for you to mill over. I am sure many of you are saying that there are already non-profit fishing organizations working toward these types of goals, and you are right. However, among the top 12 hunting 501c3 non-profit organizations, they raised over $412.5 million in the 2014-2015 accounting period. In that same period, the major fishing 501c3 non-profits raised much less; Trout Unlimited ($45 million), IGFA ($4 million), Issac Walton League ($2 million - half of which was designated to hunting programs), and American Sportfishing Association (which by the way is not rated on Charity Navigator) raised $5 million, for a total of around $55 million which equates to about $2.78 per angler compared to basically the $30 per hunter that was raised in hunting sports support.
What I am getting at is that if you find you are one of the many anglers that occasionally complain that the fishing isn't as good as it used to be, or you wish you had a nice place to take your kids or grand kids shore fishing, or your local honey hole needs better dock and/or ramp facilities, then an organization like Bass Unlimited deserves your attention and support. And not just financial support. BU is small right now, with only a few chapters. But they are working hard to expand and open chapters all over the country. Go to their website (www.bassunlimited.org) and check them out, and "Like" them on Facebook (www.facebook.com/Bassunlimited.org). Join up, donate money, donate time, start a chapter, do your part.
Fishing is a sport for the soul. Its fun, it brings friends and families, and even strangers together. An organization like BU is worth giving your time and money to support so that we, and our future generations, can enjoy great days catching fish, having fun, and soothing the soul. That's my Boyd's Eye View anyway. Carry on.