Being selfless; not selfish
You see, there are two groups of people who visit these areas, regardless of whether they’re fishing, crabbing, or just “hangin’out”. Group one doesn’t care about trash. They see it this way, “Ah, there’s already a mess here. One more bag or bottle won’t make any difference”. Or they’ll say, other people clean it up, so who cares”?
And then there is group two, people who have a conscience, and have never thrown a piece of garbage on the ground in their life, and never will. These people, unfortunately, are the ones who have who do the cleaning up after “group one”. Well, how do we go about putting an end to this “unfairness”? Leaving the trash there is not the answer. Each and every one of us knows the answer to this question; you have to clean up after yourself and your “group”.
Cleanliness; a state of mind
I was fishing a jetty once on a hot summer day, and I had a half gallon plastic jug of iced tea with me. The jug was about two thirds empty, and thinking it would be heavy enough, I set it down on the concrete monument. The minute I set it down, the wind took it and blew it right into the ocean, and it floated out on top of the water like a giant bobber. There were boats all over the place, and people were looking at me as if I drop kicked it. I said to myself, “Oh no, I’ve just become one of them”.
Well, a northeast blow came in for a couple days, and I didn’t fish. About two days after the storm I decided to head back to the jetty. As I walked towards the rocks, I looked on the beach, and there it was. My jug, with the tea still in it, had washed up in the same spot I lost it three days earlier.
I was happy as a pig in mud. I picked up the jug and took it off the beach, thinking to myself, “I’m not a litterbug after all”. Now if we could instill this type of thinking into more folks, we actually could make headway on this trash problem we have. We can make changes as individuals, therefore becoming a large majority. You and I both know that we aren’t going to change everybody, but if we take a little time and effort we can make a difference.
There’s strength in numbers!
My friends and I fish a pretty popular spot for bass early in the spring down in southern Ocean County, N.J. that I visited just a few weeks ago. It was horrid with trash, almost beyond help. There was a car windshield, a bathroom vanity, (all broken shards of glass) and more paper and plastic and glass bottles than you could ever believe.
As I sat there in complete disgust, my cousin Dave Reynolds, a regular there, pulled up. He said to me, “ Look at what they’ve done. How will we ever get a handle on this? It’s all going to end up in the bay”. We put our heads together, came up with a few guys who were just as sick of it as we were, and went to town.
It took four men seven hours, 15 to 20 contractor bags full of trash, and three truckloads, and we finally got the area literally trash free. We had done yearly pickups on trash there before but this was the king of cleanups. If you think of the dirtiest, nastiest stuff on this earth that people could leave, it was there. Trust me there was everything and the kitchen sink, or bathroom vanity, whatever.
If things keep going the way they are with the garbage problems getting worse along all of our waterways, we are going to lose more and more of our fishing spots. I remember seeing warning signs in the past posted at the Island Heights fishing pier warning people that their privilege to access the dock would be taken if the littering continued. The older gentleman who fish there regularly started policing the dock and everybody followed suit, saving what would otherwise have been another lost spot. So, as I said, if this type of selfish activity continues to go on, we only hurt ourselves.
The trash issue also has a bit of an impact on certain wildlife. As I was helping with last week’s cleanup, I noticed a piece of line hanging in a tree, suspended from branch to branch. Right in the middle hung a small hawk, all wrapped up in the line and just hanging there in midair. Unfortunately, the hawk was not alive, and met his fate this way. So fishing line is probably the worst of all the impacts that garbage has on our efforts to thwart littering. The needless killing of wildlife should be enough for us to say, “ That’s enough”. So, those of you out there who take great pride in picking up after yourself and others can be proud, because you have the right to be. As for “group one”- help us out. Take your stuff out with you. Look at it this way; whether it’s bait or beer, it’s always going to be lighter to take out than it was bringing it in. This way we can all be part of “group two”, and the trash problem will go away.
And with that being said, many, many thanks to Dave Reynolds, local resident Bill Dawson, without whom we could never have done this, (and by the way, Bill is retired and continues to police the area daily) and a hearty thank you to Gary Schoenberg over at Grizz’s for helping us with the trash and just giving support. And thanks to Bob Misak Jr., Jason Close, and Rich Foti for helping in last years effort, giving us the idea to keep it going.
So, if you have a favorite fishing hole that has gotten out of hand with garbage and it bothers you, go get some guys, a handful of bags, and do something about it. It won’t be an easy task, and you might have to do it more than once, but I think you’ll be happy with your efforts once it’s under control. And hopefully in the future, cleanliness becomes a little more contagious. Good luck and great fishing.
By Bob Misak