The economies of the states of Oregon and Washington are heavily dependent on recreational fishing dollars and I'm not referring just to revenue the state gets from license and tag sales. When you consider the revenue generated from tackle,food, lodging, fuel, guide fees and watercraft you are talking about a tremendous amount of money. I'm not sure just how many angling licenses are sold in this region but you would have to think that it numbers in the hundreds of thousands so one could also assume that sports anglers would be a powerful lobby for the resource wouldn't you? You would think that they are well represented in Salem and Olympia wouldn't you? You would think that Fish and Game commission hearings are standing room only wouldn't you?
Well my friend you would be assuming wrong! There is perhaps no "special" interest group in the entire region that is lazier, more apathetic,more fragmented and more selfish than sports fishers. Oh sure there are plenty of groups to join and some even do very good work for the resource but to actually get some fishermen off of their collective butts to get involved is akin to pulling teeth. Okay I know what some might be thinking "Well I'm not retired like you Shane, so I don't have the luxury of going to hearings and being involved" I would counter that while someone might not be able to actually attend meetings they certainly can use a computer to send emails and use a phone to call state representatives on important issues so that argument does not hold water.
When the Tillamook county good old boys thought they were going to lose their precious hatcheries a few years ago it was impressive how mobilized the rank and file angling community became.
Which leads me to my second point and that is the matter of selfishness. When it comes to sea lions devouring salmon below Bonneville or gill nets in the lower Columbia or native American tribes exercising their federally mandated harvest rights then there is plenty of so called righteous indignation. If the state of Oregon were to offer tags for the shooting sea lions I would imagine there would be a huge number of people applying for them. Why would that stir people to action? Simple! They feel that these conspiratorial pinnipeds are ripping off the salmon that are rightfully theirs....how dare they! Same thing with commercial and tribal fisheries. The selfish sports fishing crowd thinks that all harvestable fish belong to them. Sad isn't it? Oh they think going to fin clippings or helping to collect wild steelhead for the broodstock programs is doing their part but in reality they are hurting wild fish in the process and pretty much are doing this for their own self interest.
When there is an effort that involves actually doing something for the wild fish populations and their habitat in the region this huge group is largely absent! They just don't care and will not get involved.
What is truly sad is the divisiveness among the various sports groups. The boaters hate the bank fishermen, the gear guys hate the fly fishers and vise-versa and meanwhile the entire resource that everyone claims to love suffers.
You'll likely get a more passionate arguments about how long it should take to launch a boat or proper anchoring techniques than you will, among on the various fishing websites, about any conservation issues.
It never ceases to amaze me just how little regard so many have for wild fish and their habitat or how many "posers" there are that talk a good game but actually are clueless about the real issues.
You might call me cynical but I've seen it and been a part of the same mindset in years past. I'm not arrogant enough to think I have all the answers because I feel I am on a journey of enlightenment and education that is a long ways from being over. I'm learning from past mistakes and hopefully I can make a difference and provide my grandchildren an opportunity to enjoy the wonders of nature and the environment that I've enjoyed. I have learned at least this much though! I'm not going to help bring about a change of attitude among my fellow anglers by sitting on the sidelines hoping someone else will do it for me. I am not going to be an apathetic angler and hopefully you won't be either.