Last week's firestorm over President Obama's supposed plan to outlaw sport fishing was rife with negatives, including how ready and willing so many people were to believe the worst, despite the claims being the most ludicrous imaginable. No president would (at least without probably being impeached) make recreational fishing illegal in this country.
Presumably most readers of this blog know well how all that went down, starting with writer Robert Montgomery's ESPN column (not identified as opinion and widely presumed to be news fact) implying that the Obama administration was looking at ending angling in the United States, and how within hours, some media picked that up and decried the national outrage of a president determined to outlaw recreational fishing. The outcry had ESPN backpedaling the next day on what the web site's outdoors editor acknowledged was an op-ed column not labeled as opinion and not offering enough balance. It also had the White House scrambling to put out the word that the very notion of Mr. Obama having any plans for or interest in ending fishing were absolute nonsense.
But along with the negative implications of the whole travesty, I can think of one positive outcome: It helped focus national attention on recreational fishing and just how much the opportunity to pursue that sport means to millions of Americans The fact that the administration acted quickly and decisively to set the record straight suggested some recognition of the importance of 40 to 60 million anglers in the U.S.
But I contend that such recognition has had too little effect so far on this administration's fisheries policies with regard to recreational fishermen. I believe this incident can and should be a catalyst for changing that. Now that we have the attention of Dr. Lubchenco (Jane Lubchenco, head of the NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) and Eric Schwaab (recently appointed head of NMFS, the National Marine Fisheries Service) and presumably the White House as well, it's time to keep up that momentum.
Doing so will take no more than two or three very well-spent minutes of your time and will require no more effort than going to www.keepamericafishing.org and clicking on "Take Action NOW!" You can send the letter as it reads or edit it first; your click will direct your email to the president, your U.S. senators and representatives, Jane Lubchenco and others. The letter as written is basically a reminder of the economic and social importance of recreational fishing in this country and the massive numbers of anglers who, like you, are concerned that regulations and access issues may threaten the opportunity to fish.
It's the right message at the right time. If you really care about this sport, and want to be sure you - as well as your children and grandchildren - have the opportunity to keep enjoying it, I can't imagine any excuse good enough to not take a moment to make sure those who need to hear from you, do, loud and clear.