Mike Jones - KEEPING UP

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Friday, July 06, 2018
Mr. T
Thursday, July 26, 2018
Somebody, somewhere

Born to Fish
Catching a fish is not your birthright.

While the founding fathers included some hazy text about gun ownership, they said nothing specific about fishing. It is a privilege to be sure and one that requires a cooperative effort between our elected officials and those of us to whom fishing is not merely a way of life, but the very essence of that endeavor.

A recent WON editorial focusing on the continuing downward trend in license sales got part of the argument right: A 12-month fishing license – as opposed to the calendar-based variety – seems like a workable option. As to its ultimate effectiveness in stemming the ebb tide of angling interest, I think the jury is out and may never come back.

That said, I am foursquare opposed to using the price of a fishing license as the bogeyman in this discussion. Not only is it pure conjecture, it carries with it the stench of a lobbyist’s rotten self interest.

Half a lifetime ago in 1985, when my hair was the same color as walnut paneling, the cost of a fishing license was also being debated: Were the funds being properly utilized? Are we paying too much? Then, as now, the answer was the same to both questions. No.

At the time, the conundrum was in a state welded to archaic endeavors such as the hatchery program, which diverted valuable resources for questionable practices. Back then, bass anglers loved the dazed and expensive stocked rainbows, especially at Castaic or Casitas where trout-pattern swimbaits became de rigueur. Up at Lake Silverwood, some fishermen were convinced the stripers responded to the ding-ding-ding of the hatchery truck backing down the launch ramp. It was just another facet of the misguided notion that someone owes us a fish.

By placing the cost of a license at the forefront of this argument, one ignores a few very simple and salient facts:

One, we live in California, where nothing comes cheaply. With 840 miles of coastline and an economy that is now fifth largest in the world, the business and political interests controlling this massive golden juggernaut could not give a rat’s ass about fishing or the outdoors. Never have. Name a governor since World War II who has championed our cause. Reagan was governor when I was in high school and I never saw him with a fishing rod in his hand. Years later on a flight from Sacramento, I spent an hour conversing with then-citizen Jerry Brown (at the time he was between stints as governor) and I can assure you he didn’t know a bluegill from a bluefin.

Two, what of the other costs associated with fishing? Gas and tackle? Food and lodging? Not in recent memory has fishing been considered an inexpensive pursuit. So if we point fingers and claim the price of a fishing license is the pivotal reason for holding someone back, why couldn’t the non-angling public point back at the current prices of rods and reels? If we make the argument for a lower license fee in spite of dire threats to the outdoors such as population growth, pollution and drought – if the stewards of the resource are expected to do more with less – shouldn’t we be held to the same standard?

Three, what of your children? Have they followed in your fishing footsteps with the same persistence and intensity? Have we forgotten that the past four decades gave rise to personal computers, cell phones, video games and social media? Are we to believe the greatest cultural and technological upheaval of modern times has not had as much effect on fishing participation as the price of a license? Really?

And, oh yeah, number four, water. We don’t have much. So, whether you can afford a fishing license or not, above all else, you need a place to do it. Since the earliest recording of meterological data, California has endured an unrelenting spate of water shortages. Not just shortfalls mind you, historic droughts. In 1849, gold was what made the Golden State golden. Since then, the real gold has been water. Moreover, the agencies controlling it only endure our little angling whim as a necessary evil. Where we see habitat, the water managers only see profit. Where we see our past, our present and our future, most of the general public only sees blue dots or squiggles on the map.

Regardless of your political bent, an inconvenient truth in fishing is that we pay for it. We pay license fees and taxes on our gear to support our beloved brand of insanity. Any responsible angler wears this knowledge as a badge of honor. Of course, we’d like our money to be spent wisely and therein lies the real dilemma Our fair share has never been fair because no one else is interested in paying theirs. They don’t fish and they don’t really care. If a senior citizen gets a discounted license, we pay. If a child gets a free fishing day, it’s on us. And, you know what? I don’t mind. I’d pay double or triple or whatever it takes to keep doing this thing we love. Never forget, we are all on this raft alone. If we don’t pay for it, no one else will. We were born to fish, they weren’t.

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Reader Comments
Mike, Just read your post, am grateful someone else realizes we have to pay for our fun. I don't mind the fees for licenses, park entrance fees, taxes on gear, or whatever else I have to pay. While I'm fishing I don't think about what our legislature is doing or how much traffic there was on the way or whether or not somebody is not getting what they think they are entitled to. Thank you.
Dennis Thompson
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