Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Fishing ethics in North Country

By Rocco Golden

Fishing on the lake runs year-round, with ice fishing being prominent during the winter. Fishing is most popular during the summer with many fishing tournaments taking place.

Among a smaller amount of people, there is a bit of controversy surrounding the fishing tournaments of Lake Champlain. To most people there doesn’t seem to be any problems, it’s only when looking behind the curtain when one might uncover the issues.

Now, like all things in life, there are pros and cons to the fishing tournaments. There is certainly a lot of good that comes along to the area. Tournaments are always good for local business. It’s a great cultural event, and it demonstrates the lake’s superiority over many other places in the country. Lake Champlain has historically been one of the best places for fishing in the United States.

While there are a lot of pros to the fishing tournaments, there are an equal, if not greater, amount of cons. First off, is expanded tourism really worth it?

It’s no surprise the North Country of New York, as well as the Vermont side of the lake, are not the most populous areas. With that being said though, the lake definitely gets its fair share of visitors every year. The lake sees fishermen from just about every state in the country, from California, Texas, Louisiana to New Jersey. Many Canadians also partake in fishing. This really begs the question of whether tourism is worth it. As a local resident and a frequent enjoyer of the lake for almost two decades, it’s easy to say the fishers that come north for the tournaments are not exactly the best. If you’ve been a local fisher, or even a resident, the sudden influx of people during the summer can be a bit of a pain, especially if one is trying to enjoy some time on the lake.

A lot of locals have come to form some negative, but truthful, opinions on the matter of the fishing tournaments. Ethan Tisdale, a local resident of the lake and now a student at St. Lawrence University, has come to have what seems to be a minority opinion on the topic.

“I’ve personally come to resent the bass tournaments of Lake Champlain,” Tisdale said. “The tournaments in late spring target breeding smallmouth who make nests that they will not leave. Fishermen will locate specific, big fish and will mark down the exact location. Lots of these fish die from accumulated stress.”

While not the worst thing in the world for the lake, extensive fishing during breeding seasons is not good for the fish population or the locals who may be robbed of a great season. According to a research article by the American Fisheries Society, angling pressure during the spawning season can have negative effects on the reproductive success of largemouth bass. About 90% of the bass abandoned their nest after being captured multiple times. Research was conducted regarding largemouth bass and how fishing affects their spawning season.

On the topic of Lake Champlain, it’s important to realize that not all great things last forever. Extensive fishing will not be the best for the long term. There should be some more restrictions regarding foreign fishermen that come in during the summer. It really ends up hurting locals. The lake would be better off from an environmental standpoint, and without all the extra fishing or tourists during peak spawning seasons.

“I would not allow their tournaments to occur during the spawning season of the fish,” Tisdale said about the tournaments. “I would also lower the amount of boats allowed in the tournaments. There is no need for 100 or more boats to be fishing the lake competitively for two to three days several times a summer.”

This opinion of such a cultural staple of the lake may seem like a hot take, but in reality it’s going to end up gaining popularity in the future. If the lake consistently gets overfished in the years to come, it won’t be good for local sentiment or opinion. If you’ve loved the lake and the region as long as some, it may seem like a good idea to support some conservation of the resources and of the culture.

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