Stewardship tip: Reduce your footprint
Ahhhh, March 20 ... the first official day of spring and for many Iowan’s that have been cooped up it’s a ray of hope of things to come. Mother Nature though has a way of reminding us that old man winter will not go out without a fight.
As February gives way to March, much of Iowa will begin to “defrost.” We’ll see open lakes and ponds in the southern reaches of our state begin to open up as the month progresses as well as in central Iowa. According to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources ice fishing shelters had to be removed from the ice on Feb. 20, or sooner depending on ice conditions.
One of the problems we see on many of our lakes in the northern reaches of Iowa where ice fishing shelters are more common, is the amount of trash and debris left on the ice when these are removed. In some cases, it may not be a shelter that’s been left on the ice all season, but rather day users that have left their telltale signs.
Anything you leave on the ice will eventually enter the fishery. One pound propane bottles won’t sink but rather float creating an eyesore as well as a hazard to boaters and eventually an environmental hazard as they slowly deteriorate. Trash in our fisheries is a problem throughout Iowa.
The Iowa Department of Natural Resources fishing proclamation says, “You cannot throw or deposit any cans, bottles, garbage, rubbish or other debris, onto or in any of the waters, ice or land of the state.” While it’s listed as part of the regulations, it is one of those “rules” that is rarely enforced by the IDNR. Not because they don’t care, but rather they can’t be on every body of water all the time throughout the state.
It’s our responsibility as anglers and outdoor enthusiasts to take responsibility to be stewards of our lakes, rivers and streams. It not for the “other guy” to take care of; you may not have left the trash there but you can carry it out. Many professional anglers and guides that we come across during the ice fishing season will share stories of how they keep bags on hand to remove debris as they spend the day fishing. One guide mentioned a customer that took the time to clean up an area where anglers had left their footprint.
The resources we enjoy in the state benefit from stewardship. We lessen the impact of our ecological footprint by removing debris and trash; it makes a positive influence on those around us and reduces incidental ingestion of harmful debris by birds, fish and other animals.
One of the great examples of cleaning Iowa’s fisheries was a Big Sioux River cleanup. Volunteers spent a week paddling and picking trash up along the river. In the end approximately 550 tires weighing in at 10,932 pounds, 28,500 pounds of scrap metal, 2,279 pounds of glass, 460 pounds of hazardous materials and 12,000 pounds of trash were removed from the Big Sioux River.
Your efforts don’t have to be to that scale, but just remember that it’s every anglers and outdoorsman’s responsibility to be a steward of our natural resources.
Recycled Fish ... anglers living a lifestyle of stewardship both on and off the water, because our lifestyle runs down stream.