Discarded fishing line harmful to wildlife
Written by Elkhart Truth   
Friday, 08 July 2005 04:30
Michael Tomlinson just wanted to enjoy his lunch by the St. Joseph River, but instead, he nearly lost it after what he witnessed.

"I was at the C.R. 17 boat launch (at Six Span Bridge) eating lunch, and as I walked the bank I noticed someone had left some fishing line stretched down the bank," wrote Tomlinson, 46, in an e-mail.

"I was angered by this behavior and picked up the line. A rustling and splash startled me (as) a small duckling dashed off the bank into the water. The duckling, however, could not go far because the other end of the fishing line I had picked up was tied to a hook that was lodged in the back of his or her mouth. This duckling, all of a few short weeks old, was tethered to the bank for who knows how long, but the rest of his duck buddies had abandoned him, so I would guess a while.

"I gently pulled the duckling to me, trying not to startle it any more than it already was and clipped the line as close as possible. The duckling swam away, and I think the hook will rust out."

It only takes one fishermen to reek this kind of havoc on local wildlife, but according to Tomlinson, he's seen more than one incident of lines and bait tins lying around.

"I see it a lot," says Tomlinson, an avid fishermen from Elkhart. "I'm not sure if it's the boaters or the shore-access guys. But public accesses are notoriously trashed. It appears it's mostly shore fishermen, but it's not uncommon to see fishing lines hanging around everywhere."

Each year an inordinate number of birds, particularly geese and ducks, are wounded or slain because of litter such as fishing hooks and fishing line. Birds can get entangled in fishing line when it wraps around the their limbs and cuts off their circulation, while hooks can cause harm to their beaks and eyes.

"Some people have a misunderstanding of what they are doing," says District First Sergeant Mark Hines from the Department of Natural Resources District 1 in charge of Elkhart County. "They don't understand if it gets tangled up in a duck's neck or feet, it will have a serious impact on the animal."

Tomlinson believes it isn't the minority that causes these problems, and his incident isn't indicative of all fishermen -- just a few who don't have regard for the environment.

"I don't think that they think," says Tomlinson. "It's the same as driving on the highway and throwing a McDonald's bag out the window; it's somebody else's problem then.

"With the incident with the duck, I don't know how long the little guy had been there, but I do know if me or somebody else didn't find him, he would be dead."

As a member of a couple of fishing clubs, Tomlinson sees many rules for boaters but not many for shore fishermen.

"There is so much organized tournament fishing going on, and these clubs have rules like catch-and-release and catch, release and weigh-in, but all rules seem to apply to being in water, not shore," says Tomlinson.

"There's so much traffic on these boat launches, and they're not maintained," adds Tomlinson. "I see the same thing happening at Martin's Landing. More and more people are using it and leaving their bait containers and fishing line there although there is at least three trash cans."

But according to Sgt. Hines, if the DNR sees an individual deliberately leave fishing line, hooks, a six-pack ring or a bait tin on the shore, they will be fined or arrested.

"That's littering," says Hines. "But everything is a case-by-case matter. You have to look if the person's line was tangled up or if they were just recklessly doing it. If they are really doing it intentionally, then it's an infraction. ... But if we see you doing it intentionally you will be arrested for littering. We view that to be very serious."

What's going on at Johnson Street Bridge? A favorite spot of local fishermen is in limbo for now, but should soon be open for fishing again.

According to Roy Edington, owner of B&M Products in Elkhart, many area fishermen were upset when one of their prime spots at the northwest corner of Elkhart Avenue and Johnson Street was taken over by construction.

Here's the deal, according to a Truth article published in November:

"Approved proposed park improvements for two vacant sites along the St. Joseph River -- 0.85 acres at the northwest corner of Elkhart Avenue and Johnson Street and 0.4 acres at the southwest corner of Johnson Street and Beardsley Avenue. The first site would be upgraded with a small fishing pier, landscaping, parking, lighting and access for people with disabilities. The second site would be enhanced with canoe portage and fishing access. Both sites are owned by Indiana Michigan Power Co., the local division of American Electric Power. As part of its federal licensing to operate a hydroelectric project on the river, the local power company must maintain small parks."

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