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Going Soft on Plastics

Plastic Recycle
Plastic Recycle

If not for tireless efforts of Alexandria-based American Sportfishing Association (ASA), fishing with soft plastic lures like worms and other creatures would be outlawed! The Maine State Legislature was considering a ban on the use of soft plastic fishing lures to accompany the State’s already restrictive lead sinker and jig use. Could this lead to a ban on fishing altogether?

For nearly 65 years, soft baits have been used to mimic a fish’s natural prey. Available in a wide array of colors, sizes, and shapes, they are a tacklebox staple! Inexpensive and effective, soft plastic lures work well under all fishing conditions. But, unwary anglers who introduce soft plastic baits into waterways, unintentionally or deliberately, assist anti-fishing advocates. Most environmentally minded anglers wouldn’t think of tossing a lure package overboard, but a torn or otherwise useless soft plastic bait is dumped without a second thought! What happens after that is debatable, but at a minimum, it’s pollution!   After all, most soft plastic lures contain some petroleum products. Slowly leaching into the water, they produce a miniscule amount of contamination. Still, there’s no scientific or anecdotal evidence to support a ban on soft plastics. Similar story for lead. Not enough factual research or evidence was presented, but a lead ban was established in a few states across the country.

Once tossed into the water, either lost by accident of rejected as no longer serving a purpose, soft plastics are out of sight and mind until a dead fish washes onto shore and is found to contain a soft plastic lure in its digestive system. Even not knowing the cause of death, fish autopsies assign blame to the soft plastic lure, possibly with some validation. Soft plastic companies claim fish will be unharmed when ingesting these baits, either passing or regurgitating them, however there isn’t any independent scientific data. But it’s visible signs of litter that prompt many who desire to ban fishing altogether to point to angler recklessness as reason enough to enact a ban! Boat ramps, docks, and parking lots become soft plastic graveyards created by unconcerned anglers. To the recreational boater or waterfront enthusiast, this is fish poison! It’s the same as cigarette butts and beer cans! They shouldn’t be in the environment!

While most anglers slept and fished…the beginning of the end of soft plastic baits was awakened. In early 2013, Maine’s Joint Standing Committee on Inland Fisheries and Wildlife ruled that an official departmental study was needed to study the effects of soft baits on fish. An involved Maine B.A.S.S. Nation was the impetus for a collaborative effort to oppose and eventually end, for now, the ban on soft plastics! Backed by B.A.S.S. national conservation director Noreen Clough, they joined forces with ASA and its KeepAmericaFishing advocacy members garnering nearly 20,000 petition signatures to save soft plastics. Fortunately, Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife concluded in January this year, they do not recommend any legislation at this time. However, they did recommend enhancing angler education programs involving anglers, angler organizations and the sportfishing industry. ASA is supporting these recommendations and will help establish educational programs.

The first step is preventing soft plastics from finding their way into the water! Next is putting discarded baits into their place. B.A.S.S. Conservation is the home of the ReBaits program, providing recycling for discarded plastics in 37 states, Canada and South Africa. Anglers placing discarded plastic baits into plastic recycling bins from ReBaits, or in any collection bin can potentially eliminate the need for a ban! Moreover, purchasing soft plastic molds from LureCraft.com can allow melting and pouring new baits to complete the recycling process. In fact, many conservation and budget minded anglers have been doing this for decades! With more at stake, the future of soft plastics depends on smart use and avoiding misuse!

Education is key. The same anglers who would go overboard in protecting their fish through a tournament weigh-in had thought nothing of tossing soft plastics overboard. Informed and reacting positively to practical, commonsense recycling programs, anglers are being educated on soft plastic use and disposal. Recycling is spreading thanks to tournament organizations; enabling effective soft plastic baits to remain in tackleboxes.

Anglers, by nature conservationists, will no longer be contributing to the potential demise of their beloved fish. There’s no need to wait until anecdotal stories of fish dying from ingesting soft plastics or specific studies prove the case to be true. Recycling begins at home, and for anglers it begins when soft plastics reach the end of the line.

Potomac River Bassing in AUGUST

 Start on top with Lucky Craft G-Splash poppers. Bigger ones in stained choppy water and the regular size G-Splash 65 for clear calm water. Have a Mann’s HardNose Freefall worm Texas rigged weightless with a 3/0 Mustad Ultra Point Mega Bite hook. Tie to 12-pound test GAMMA Edge Fluorocarbon line.

Then it’s a combo of Mann’s Baby 1-Minus in chartreuse on sunny days or shad patterns on cloudy days. Use Classic spinnerbaits with white skirts on cloudy days. Or craw patterned chatterbaits anytime. This is also a good time to swim a Mann’s Stone Jig around cover. Use a HardNose Frankentoad trailer. Try these on 14-16 pound test GAMMA Edge.

Pitching Mizmo tubes, Texas rigged with 14-16 pound Edge and 3/16-ounce weights to grass clumps, wood and docks, especially during the heat of the day. A good soaking in garlic Jack’s Juice will keep fish holding on longer!

At the peak of the heat, try drop shotting steep drops. I like the GAMMA Torque 20-pound braid with a 12-pound test Edge leader on a Quantum EXO spinning outfit. Use a 2/0 Mustad Mega Bite hook and Mann’s HardNose 6 inch Jelly worm worm. Anchor this rig with a 1/8 ounce Water Gremlin Bullshot weight.

Written by: Steve Chaconas

Capt. Steve Chaconas, Potomac bass fishing guide, BoatUS “Ask the Expert” (http://my.boatus.com/askexperts/bassfishing/)

Potomac River reports: nationalbass.com. Book trips/purchase gift certificates: info@NationalBass.com.

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