Hands-on Conservation

Everett Johnson

Writing my editor's column is often one of my toughest monthly tasks. Trying to weave all the elements of worthy topics into such a small space can be a challenge for a guy that likes to talk. This month, though, it is going to be a lot easier. I get to write about two of my favorite events.

To set the stage, you have to first recognize that in most fishermen's minds, Saturdays are precious. Saturday is the day a fisherman with a real job sets his sights on. He struggles through the work week with the dream of hitting the water. This is the day you don't mess with. Saturdays during the famed trophy trout months of February and March are held in even higher regard. These are the few days of the year he'd rather not give up.

So what brings a stalwart salt to willingly lay down his rod during this revered season? Two things come to mind Abandoned Crab Trap Removal and Billy Sandifer's Big Shell Beach Cleanup.

Since 2002 Pam and I have participated in the Abandoned Crab Trap Cleanup seven times. Back in 2003 we booked a booth at the Winter Hunting and Fishing Show and could not back out. Seven times we have picked up traps and served lunch to the volunteers. Seven times we have been inspired and awed by the all-volunteer effort to rid Texas bays of ghost traps that waste precious resources. On February 21, fifty-two conservation-minded anglers hauled nearly 600 abandoned crab traps to Charlie's Bait Camp near Seadrift and it was a beautiful sight. Charlie's is but one of about a dozen facilitated disposal sites on as many bays where conservation-minded anglers gather to do a dirty job. To all the volunteers who gave up a day of fishing to pull traps - We salute you!

Billy Sandifer's Big Shell Beach Cleanup is perhaps one of the greatest events of its kind on any shore of any coast. March 21, last Saturday, marked the event's fourteenth anniversary and, apart from a Noah-class deluge, the weatherman threw us some of his ugliest stuff. We arrived at the Malaquite Visitors Center of Padre Island National Seashore just before daylight to receive unit assignment in drizzling rain, 44 degrees, and a northeaster you had to lean into to walk forward. We were not alone, 437 others agreed it was a good day to clean the beach.

In caravan fashion we drove to our assigned sections. Our mile of beach was Section 1, our group led the parade. If you could have been there your heart would have swelled with pride as 4WD vehicles of every description carrying as many volunteers as could fit streamed past making their way further down the beach. Texas and American flags flapped stiffly, like they do on a general's car, some vehicles were adorned with one of each. Fishermen tend to be a patriotic lot, you know. Many vehicles had rod racks on the bumpers, but I don't recall seeing any rods. Nearly all carried bumper stickers and window decals; CCA, Loomis, American Rodsmiths, Roy's Bait and Tackle, Shimano, Daiwa, were some of the more common. You think this crowd loves fishing?

What motivates fishermen to join these events? A deep and abiding respect for the resources we are so privileged to enjoy would qualify as a good answer. I consider myself privileged to attend these events. I am proud of each and every volunteer that certainly could have found something else to do or some other place to go. I am proud of our hands-on conservationists. Kudos!

I can't wait to join you again next year.