Clean lakes, shorelines, boat ramps and fish cleaning areas are the responsibility of all who use them. We all need to do our part to keep those areas free of trash, bait, tangled fishing line and any other evidence of the presence of sloppy man. Do anything else and it gets pretty disgusting in a hurry.
Most who visit our lakes and rivers and streams are quite conscious of keeping areas they utilize free of debris. A few are not though, and it only takes a few to transform an area into an ugly mess. It is early in the fishing season, but enough trash has already has been left in some areas to cause concern. Continued abuse can always lead to greater restrictions or closure. Nobody wants that.
State law says baitfish cannot be dumped into any body of water in the state. Nor can baitfish be transported in a live well. Regulations say that a fisherman can transport bait in a bucket holding no more than five gallons of water. However, from my observation, many choose to dispose of bait they know they won't be able to keep for another day. This leads to an unwanted problem, often contributing to messes in access areas.
Some boat fishermen will dump their baitfish into their livewell and then, as required, drain the livewell when leaving the water. That leaves minnows flopping on the ground where they die and stink and attract flies in the same area where other fishermen prepare to launch their boats. If you fish with a dog or two, as I do, you know how much you appreciate this.
Shore fishermen often leave bait as well, everything from packaged smelt to live minnows. A solution is to dump or bury unused bait far enough away from the fishing area where it will not become a messy problem for the next fisherman. I've heard fishermen ask the professionals what they are supposed to do with their leftover bait and they were told to, "just dump 'em in a ditch somewhere."
True, that gets the baitfish away from the water but, in reality, it is just placing the problem somewhere else. Aside from that, a lot of people are uncomfortable with throwing anything into a ditch. A better choice, I think, is to take unused bait home, seal it in a bag and dispose of it. Bait can be buried in the garden too, provided you don't do it too much, too often. I simply quit using live minnows. Problem solved.
Another problem along shoreline and access areas is general trash. This is particularly evident in the picnic area below Lake Darling Dam. The area has become a littering ground for bottles, cans, tangled fishing line, dead fish - even picnic tables have been used as cleaning stations with little or no effort to remove remains. How nice is that to walk into for the next guy and his family?
The refuge staff at Lake Darling is understandably stepping up enforcement in an effort to make people more aware of their actions. I'm guessing a few smiles will turn to frowns when violators are issued citations rather than warnings. If that is what needs to be done to keep the area clean, so be it.
A good thing is that most of the shoreline and access areas in our state are pretty darn clean. Most boaters and fishermen do all they can to keep areas clean, even going so far as to carry garbage bags and spend a few minutes picking up what trash they can find. When I see people policing an area it makes me feel guilty that I don't do that more often. Good for them.
Generally, fishermen and boaters do a darn good job of policing themselves. That is much better than having someone concoct a story to tell a uniformed officer. I hope our fishing areas look as clean at the end of August as they did in early April. They will, if we all do our part.