Even a veteran attendee of ICAST shows — the world's largest tackle show with a mind-boggling array of reels, rods, lines, lures, accessories and more — can't help but be amazed. But beyond the rows and rows of cool products and the masses of industry players crowding the aisles, the show offers a reminder that recreational fishing represents serious money and contributes to U.S. and coastal economies very substantially.
So there could hardly be a venue more appropriate to the message of Keep America Fishing (KAF) than ICAST. And at the show this week, the primary movers behind KAF held a breakfast for outdoor media to remind them how vital to the health of our sport is KAF.
"The public perception of fishing as an all-American, wholesome pursuit has changed in the past 10 to 15 years," Mike Nussman — president of the American Sportfishing Association (ASA) — told those at the breakfast. That, Nussman said, used to be taken for granted, but in recent years that is no longer a default assumption.
As a result of that shift and of forces who intentionally or indirectly would limit fishing in the United States, we need to make a difference.
To make a difference, Nussman said, we need people and money, and anglers haven’t had enough of either.
Changing that is the primary goal of KAF. When the campaign started in 2010, it had a database (“members”) of 20,000. Today that number is 750,000, and by the end of 2015, the goal is at least 3 million members.
“When you tell people up on the hill,” says ASA vice-president Gordon Robertson, that we ‘represent anglers,’ that’s one thing. When you say we “represent 750,000 anglers — or, better, 3 million anglers — well, that really gets some attention.”
Keep American Fishing has, in its brief tenure, a number of major accomplishments in the feathers lining its cap, including countering counterproductive bans on lead in tackle, preventing the state of Florida from ending the requirement of fishing licenses (and ending much of its fisheries-management funding) and more.
But KAF has much work to do, Robertson said, citing issues from billfish conservation to fighting restrictions that would limit angler access.
If you're not already a "member," go to keepamericafishing.org and register to get updates/action alerts. It will take you a couple of minutes, after which you'll be notified via email when your voice needs to be heard on a critical sport-fishing issue. (And KAF makes it easy indeed to be heard, with a single keystroke.)
Do it now, not just so you and I can continue to enjoy the sport we love, but because we owe it to our kids and theirs and all future generations of anglers.