I've thought a lot about the effect the world wide web has had on our rivers and lakes and frankly I do not like what I am seeing.Apparantly there is a lot of money to be made by putting maximum numbers of people on the streambanks around the Pacific northwest and the resource is the loser.
When I first started fishing in Oregon way back in 1973 of course there was no internet. I learned to drift fish and then fly fish with the help of some friends who took me under their wing and showed me the ropes.There was a hell of a lot of trial and error along the way. I fished two years before catching my first steelhead on the Sandy river and that was pretty much a normal learning period for a new steelheader.
Today's anglers want instant gratification. I doubt many have the patience to wait two years to get a steelhead or salmon and when you really think about it why should they? There is a wealth of information and instruction available just a keystroke away. Fishing tackle, of course, has improved by leaps and bounds since I acquired my first Ambassadeur 5000A casting reel in 1974 so it is not unrealistic to hook your first fish on one of your first trips out to the river and in fact I have seen it happen.
One fishing website at the forefront of this "revolution" of information has been Ifish.net With thousands of hits per day this site has cashed in on the very popular and lucative Pacific northwest salmon and steelhead runs and is making money doing it! Problem is that ifish has brought other less desirable consequences to the region's fishing scene and that being a general lack of compassion for wild fish issues. The owner of the site has downplayed the role fishing ethics on our northwest rivers and is a staunch supporter of the hatchery/harvest dogma. Now don't get me wrong here,there has been no endorsements by the ifish management of anything illegal but there has also been little if anything done on that website to encourage anything more than to perpetuate the harvest mentality that is undermining wild salmonid recovery in the northwest.Also in fairness, Ifish is not been the only website to use the internet to "cash in" on salmon and steelhead runs in our rivers.Despite being the largest regional fishing website sadly they give only a passing nod to conservation issues and conservation groups.
Does is sound like I'm doing a little ax grinding here? Yes I am, but everything I've written here has been born out on our rivers throughout the region so I'm not just making this stuff up and I am not the only one who holds this opinion. With the "live on the river and up to the minute" fishing reports by cell phones and hundreds of pictures of grinning fishermen holding up their latest catch with easily recognizable landmarks in the back ground. This site is indeed influential but, in my opinion, for many of the wrong reasons.I've linked the ifish website because it would be only fair to let anyone who reads this to check out the website for themselves and form their own opinion.
So do those websites, fishing guides and tackle manufacturers have a heavier burden to bear as far as helping the very resource that is their cash cow? Absolutely they do and I'm not talking about supporting groups who think that helping the resource consists of sponsoring fishing derbies, posting news of fin-clippings and supporting groups who represent the interests of tackle manufacturing businesses or fighting other user groups for the right to kill the last fish. To my way of thinking there is too much at stake here and unfortunately wild fish and their habitat are the losers and in the long run so are we.
So I would challenge every website owner, fishing guide and any business that makes money on the backs of salmon and steelhead to be strong advocates of wild fish issues and I'm not talking about supporting broodstock programs either. There are some groups and businesses that are "wild fish friendly" but they are in the minority! The majority of them will give all kinds of lip service to the causes I've mentioned but in reality their participation and support is pretty pathetic.
The challenge also goes out to any individual who has benefited from information provided by websites like ifish.net to get on board and think beyond your filled tags, cured eggs and freezers full of fish. Again there is too much to lose here and those that do care cannot do it by themselves.
I can swear to all of you there are bigger issues at stake here than crowded fishing ramps, sea lions and the latest and greatest egg cures. So if you make money on the resource then you owe that resource something in return...it is just that simple.