Thursday, May 29, 2014

A Treasure is Trashed

A liquid drain opener bottle sits in the sargassum on South Padre Island.
 There's a perfectly usable Weber kettle barbecue grill resting amid a modern-day midden heap on the beach ready for the taking--it's right around mile marker No. 4, just north of where the road out of town ends in a trashy dunescape on the Gulf side of South Padre Island.


Apparently, the folks who abandoned it didn't need it anymore. They also left a gently used camp chair and all of their garbage, presumably from a Memorial Day weekend on the island. They just bagged it up and decided they didn't have room in the truck to take it to a Dumpster in town. Since they left it, every raccoon and coyote and jackrabbit has pilfered through the refuse, creatively spreading it across the sand and sargassum. There's a motor oil bottle here. A six-pack ring there. Is that a bottle of liquid drain cleaner?

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Keeping public land in public hands: Good politics, good business



Peter Metcalf
Editor's note: This piece originally ran at WyoFile.com, and is republished here in accordance with WyoFile policies. 

By Peter Metcalf and Ann Morgan
Theodore Roosevelt, one of our all-time great presidents, famously embodied the “conserve” in “conservative.” He set aside some of our country’s most beloved public lands, including the Grand Canyon, Muir Woods and Chaco Canyon, and created the National Forest and National Wildlife Refuge systems.

The hundreds of millions of acres that belong to all Americans are critical to fish, wildlife, watersheds and the economic powerhouse of outdoor recreation, which produces $646 billion in economic benefit annually and supports 6.1 million jobs. In the tradition of Roosevelt, Jay Norwood “Ding” Darling convened hunters, anglers and other conservationists in a kind of “big-tent” gathering – the first North American Wildlife Conference – and created the forerunner to the National Wildlife Federation in 1936.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Baja Remembered...



Hard to believe it's been just over a year since Mike Sepelak and I bathed in the Baja sun and no small amount of middle-shelf tequila. But it has. And I miss it.

Chasing Grayling




Editor's note: This piece first appeared in Hatch Magazine.

In a day when all the fly fishing rage seems to be centered on salty critters that induce screaming reels and stylish expletive “bleeps” in one of the hundreds of new-era videos sucking up bandwidth these days, the essence of the craft seems to have gone south. Literally and figuratively.

Oh, I’m part of the problem. Believe me. I dig the flats and the fish that swim them. But it’s spring up here where we can actually tell a difference between the seasons, and my thoughts are shifting from bones and permit to chasing lighter fare in places where, when summer finally does arrive, it’s damn near over.

Places like the Alaskan interior, where the sun is shining now and pushing snowmelt into the region’s many rivers. And in those rivers, under brown, rushing waters lined by birch and alder, one of the most game of fly fishing targets is busy pair up, ensuring anglers yet another generation of wonderment.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

My Land

Eric Parker of Idaho points an assualt rifle at the feds. Photo courtesy of Reuters.
It seems I own a little stretch of Bureau of Land Management real estate about 80 miles north of Las Vegas. And, as luck would have it, you do, too.

Cliven Bundy owns a share, as well, although he's taking more than what's due. In fact, for the last 20 years, after refusing to pay grazing fees to the government, Bundy has been taking from my land--he's been grazing hundreds of head of cattle on my land and hasn't paid a grazing fee to do so. For perspective, the grazing fee that Bundy would owe under 2014 rules is $1.35 per animal unit (cow and a calf) per month. It's a scam--these fees have been too low for too long.

Yet Bundy can't be bothered to pay even this pittance for the use of my land. Or your land. Our land. Instead, he appealed to the extreme fringes of our society--those places on the political spectrum occupied at one time by Timothy McVeigh, before he bombed the federal building in Oklahoma City, or Ted Kaczynski, during his Unabomber spree. Or Claude Dallas, when he executed two game wardens trying to bring him to justice for poaching on public land in the Owyhees (you know, our land).

And, good grief, did the fringe-dwellers show up.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Hiatus

It's not like I've just been hanging out watching on-demand episodes of Homeland or binge-watching House of Cards. I've been busy.

The day job is changing--for the better--and keeping me on my toes. And I did finish my last book for your reading pleasure. But mostly, I've just been swamped. That likely won't change, but if I've learned anything, it's that this part of my life--this little writing project that started about six years ago and never truly ended--is a necessity. It's prescriptive therapy--like an anti-depressant or a knee brace. I can function OK without it--for a time--but in the end, I'll return to it, and just as often stare into the blank space of the WYSIWYG editor than I will actually write something.

I've had a few little projects in the works--the book is one, obviously. I've crafted a few things for my friend Chad Shmukler at Hatch Magazine. And, of course, I'm spreading the gospel over at the TU blog, where we've literally been saving the world, one trout at a time. But this... this purely self-serving endeavor meant for all eyes--or none--seems to pull me back in. Even if it's just to read some previous posts or wade through the spam comments (Boost Your Bust? Really?) and delete the pablum left behind by the trolls.

I've been able to fish a bit. I hit the Henry's Fork for an afternoon a week or so ago, visited the surprisingly fishy mountain streams of north Georgia earlier this spring and I traveled south to Ascension Bay in February, where I caught my first permit. And my second. And my third.

I can't promise that "I'm back," or anything, but I'd like think I've arrived at a place in my tumultuous existence of late where I might be able to pop in--and pop off on a few issues--with some sense of regularity.

Until then, enjoy the fishing.








Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thankful...

Perhaps inspiration is found in the bottom of a jug of homemade apple pie cocktail (thank you, Wisconsin), or perhaps it's just the season... but I felt compelled to sit and craft a tried-and-true post for the holiday.

Today, I'm thankful for...

Fishing buddies... 
My friends. A little social network time this morning convinced me that spending a holiday like this alone is done purely by choice. Just a few lines of text, some kitschy winks and smiley-faces, and I felt fulfilled... loved... appreciated. Thank you for that, my dear friends. Happy Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Florida's Dirty Little Secret, Part 4

This is the fourth and final post in a series focusing on the ecological issues facing the coastal estuaries of southern Florida. Read Part One here, Part Two here, and Part Three here

Tourists watch dolphins hunting fish in San Carlos Bay.
The boatful of tourists watched with sheer glee as a pod of bottlenose dolphins frolicked along the edges of the Intercoastal Waterway. The big mammals put on quite a show, breaching regularly, sometimes completely coming out of the dark, tainted water of San Carlos Bay. 

Jim Martin, a lifelong conservationists, and the conservation officer for Pure Fishing, joined me and a handful of folks on the dolphin-watching tour, an offering given to attendees at the American Sportfishing Association Summit, conducted in October on shores of the bay.

Martin, who speaks passionately about issues impacting the environment--particularly as those issues impact fishing opportunity--remarked on the color of the water, and noted that, if something isn't done to remedy the frequent influx of untreated fresh water from Lake Okeechobee, this bay and others like around south Florida could be in real trouble.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Florida's Dirty Little Secret: Part Three

This is the third in a series of posts focusing on the ecological issues facing the coastal estuaries of southern Florida. Read Part One here, and Part Two here

A spotted sea trout breaks up a slow day of fishing in San Carlos Bay. The
bay is influenced by excess water discharges from Lake Okeechobee,
which turn the water brown and add pollutants to the estuary.
It's fashionable, among sportsmen and women, to point fingers at others when it becomes obvious that our fishing and hunting are suffering thanks to degraded waters or lands. Certainly, it's true that some who use our resources leave them in a state that makes our pastimes less productive, and it's perfectly all right to identify the causes of the problems that trash fish and game habitat and hinder our opportunity.

But unless we act, we're just a bunch of whiners. It's a tough pill to swallow, but it's true. Complaining about a problem without offering a solution just makes for shrill rhetoric. It's unproductive, to be sure. For more, see: Congress, United States. 

I have a good friend who once explained to me how, traditionally, sportsmen engaged in politics, particularly when it came to natural resources issues that impacted their opportunities afield.

"If one day, you told a bunch of hunters that they had to wake up the next morning, report to the firing squad and be executed, they'd bitch and moan all night long," he said to me. "Then, the next morning, they'd dutifully report, and stand stoically in front of the firing squad to be shot dead."

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Florida's Dirty Little Secret: Part Two

This is a second in a series of posts focusing on the ecological issues facing the coastal estuaries of southern Florida. Read Part One here, and Part Three here


You've heard of Big Oil. The Big Three from Detroit. And, of course, the Big Lebowski.

But have you heard of Big Sugar?

I have to admit, until I spent some quality time chasing saltwater fish in southwest Florida recently, I
An osprey surveys the stained water of San Carlos Bay in southwest
Florida. The bay turns brown when unnatural discharges of polluted
water are deposited by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' diversion
project to protect sugar cane crops during the summer wet season. 
hadn't. But, as I paddled the stained waters of San Carlos Bay and fished the chalky water off the beaches of Sanibel Island, it became clear to me that Big Sugar isn't as sweet as it sounds.

In Florida, this industry is source of great pride, particularly among those state and federal lawmakers who collect significant campaign contributions from companies like U.S. Sugar and American Crystal Sugar, or the collective lobbying group, the American Sugar Alliance.

For those living along both the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts of southern Florida, though, Big Sugar is a Big Problem.

This heavily subsidized industry is largely the cause of one of the most egregious environmental problems in the Southeast, and if you're a saltwater angler from Florida, or someone who travels to the Sunshine State to chase inshore trophies like snook, tarpon and redfish, you might already know the havoc Big Sugar wreaks on the state's southern estuaries.