TULSA, Okla. — There are saltwater fishermen and freshwater anglers, and there was a time when never the twain shall meet.
Not now, and especially not when the country’s largest bass-fishing organization, the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society — B.A.S.S. — decided to join forces with groups representing coastal fishing groups to battle the country’s growing forces bent on further restricting our country’s largest outdoor recreational activity.
Depending on which survey you select, recreational fishing is a pastime enjoyed by more than 20 percent of our citizens. Almost nothing else comes close to knocking recreational fishing from this lofty perch.
Why should B.A.S.S. be concerned with the plight of saltwater fishermen?
There’s a growing fear that folks who use our country’s interior waters will face the same problems as their coastal brethren.
And B.A.S.S. CEO Bruce Akin said surveys of their half-million members indicate a growing number are like Louisiana anglers and spend some of their time in coastal waters.
Akin said B.A.S.S. leadership has recognized the perils freshwater folks could face from increasing federal land and water regulations.
And the prevailing sentiment here is that landowners, especially small-parcel owners, are better stewards of their land than someone hundreds of miles away who propose broad-sweeping laws that remove the privileges land ownership — but not water — has meant for hundreds of years.
Water is another challenge, and there’s an increasing concern at B.A.S.S. and other outdoors conservation groups to restrict access on lakes controlled by federal agencies, notably the Corps of Engineers.
Akin mentioned moves at various levels in the federal government to add further restrictive measures in freshwater areas that match ongoing restrictions in saltwater, moves like establishing more marine sanctuaries and continued pressures on what an angler can and can’t do with his catch.
While it’s true B.A.S.S. is new to this game, it’s not to conservation. Most older fishermen remember when bass tournaments weighed a catch and the fish went into an ice chest. B.A.S.S. founder Ray Scott and his cohorts stopped that.
Catch-and-release replaced catch-and-fillet. It wasn’t that long ago when a south Louisiana tournament angler brought in a giant 8-pound Atchafalaya largemouth, sprinted to the scales and begged to weigh his catch immediately, sprinted back to his boat, put the lunker bass back in the live well and sped off to return the bass to the exact spot where he caught the roe-laden female. The bass swam off, and didn’t show up mounted over a plaque on his wall.
That likely wouldn’t have happened without B.A.S.S.
And, sportsmen across our state should welcome them in with open arms.