BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — More than 55 million Americans reported fishing at least once in 2020 and 2021. And while participation in fishing is at an all-time high, a variety of issues threaten the future of bass fishing. Whether you are new to fishing or an avid tournament angler, you need to know about these threats and get involved in finding solutions.
According to B.A.S.S. National Conservation Director Gene Gilliland, a biologist and conservation advocate, here are five threats that will have the biggest impact on bass fishing across North America in the next decade along with ways for avid anglers to become more involved in finding solutions.
#1: Water Policy
This one is obvious. No water — no bass. But it’s not just about drought. Climate change aside, droughts come and go while some states always seem to have water. The real issue is who owns the water and who can use it.
A long-term water policy that provides for a growing human population and reserves water for fish is missing. Without plans that include recreation (fishing and boating) in the mix, water managers can draw the last drops from their reservoirs with no regard to your fishing. Bass anglers must demand a seat at the negotiating table to ensure that our interests are considered.
#2: Invasive Species
The greatest biological threats come from invasive species. Asian carp, zebra and quagga mussels and invasive plants like Salvinia and starry stonewort are expanding their ranges. They potentially threaten ecosystems, infrastructure and economies. In many cases, the invaders are not causing harm, but their mere presence gives water managers an excuse to further regulate waterways. Fishing and boating can be eliminated in the name of “prevention.” Your favorite lake could be next. What are you doing to prevent the spread of invasives? Are you setting an example? Do you clean, drain and dry?
#3: Loss of Access
Privatization of public resources is restricting fishing and boating access. Agencies are selling public lands and waters to developers. Entire lakes that are by law public water are being closed to fishing and boating. Business, industry and lake associations also frequently use liability and security concerns as excuses to restrict access.
Beyond the loss of access to fishing and boating, if the public loses their connection with our natural resources, they may lose appreciation for the resource. In turn, we lose political support and that snowball continues to roll down the hill.
#4: Pollution and Habitat Loss
The days of rivers so polluted that they catch fire are behind us, but much of the progress made following the passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972 has been lost. Environmental protections have been pushed aside in favor of economic interests. Pollution is on the rise. Chemicals and excess nutrients are causing problems with water supplies, from toxic algae blooms and oxygen dead zones to bass with hormone disruptions that cause reproductive failure.
Upstream in the watershed, the agriculture community has been slow to adopt proven conservation practices in the quest for greater profits. As a result, tons of nutrient-laden silt are washing downstream and filling in rivers, lakes and reservoirs. There is a need for balanced environmental, agriculture and forestry policies that consider watersheds and downstream impacts to fisheries.
#5: Apathy and Indifference
Bass anglers often tend to sit on the sidelines and hope that someone else will take on the challenges that face water resources and fishing. But these threats are too big to be tackled by individuals, a handful of lobbyists from the fishing industry or conservation organizations in Washington D.C. Significantly more anglers must step up and speak up.
As society grows more urbanized, people are less connected to the outdoors and nature. They don’t understand the value of conservation. The fishing community needs to engage the broader public with messages about the value of clean water and how healthy lakes, rivers and reservoirs are good for all of us. If the public values the natural world, they will fight to protect it.
What can you do?
These issues are real. They are now. If you love the sport of bass fishing you need to get involved, get organized and get political. B.A.S.S. Nation Conservation Directors can help channel your energy and get you engaged. The first step is to learn about the issues. Get the facts — then act. Follow the updates on the Bassmaster.com Conservation page or in the B.A.S.S. Conservation Facebook group.
B.A.S.S., which encompasses the Bassmaster tournament leagues, events and media platforms, is the worldwide authority on bass fishing and keeper of the culture of the sport, providing cutting edge content on bass fishing whenever, wherever and however bass fishing fans want to use it. Headquartered in Birmingham, Ala., the 515,000-member organization’s fully integrated media platforms include the industry’s leading magazines (Bassmaster and B.A.S.S. Times), website (Bassmaster.com), TV show, radio show, social media programs and events. For more than 50 years, B.A.S.S. has been dedicated to access, conservation and youth fishing.