It's a perennial issue.
Every year, right about this time, we hear the same complaints.
"I used to be able to fish here," a frustrated angler says, "but now the land is posted and I can't get to the stream."
It's a subject that angers a lot of folks. And usually around the start of trout season, the anger reaches a peak. As landowners deny access to their property, we all suffer. But usually there's one simple-to-fix issue to blame litter.
As anglers line the county's streams, lakes and rivers, they often leave something behind. Sometimes it's on purpose. Sometimes it's by accident. Either way, litter is a big problem.
Here's what the typical scene looks like. A couple of buddies go fishing along a well-stocked trout stream. Within a few hours, they've walked to several different holes, ate a sandwich and drank a couple of sodas.
By the time their stringers are full, they lose track of everything they carried in. They are tired and distracted by the excitement of a good day of fishing. And as they head for home, they leave a couple of pieces of trash.
It's not a huge crime, right? It's not like they're poaching trophy deer from the back of their truck, right? The landowner who has to clean up the mess begs to differ. If somebody left trash in your backyard, you'd understand littering is a big deal.
Don't forget, that landowner makes a choice every year. He decides whether to post his land or keep it open to fishermen. Imagine how easy that decision is when he walks his property and finds beer cans, cigarette packs, bait tubs and yards of old fishing line.
If you've been a longtime hunter or angler, you know one of the greatest threats to our sports is access to land. Each year, the list of properties open to the public gets smaller and smaller.
That's why littering — as small as a crime as it appears to be — is a big deal and can lead to a hefty fine. It's one of the main reasons we can't hunt or fish in all the places we'd like to.
What can you do to help?
First, be aware. A lot of litter is not left behind on purpose. It's forgotten about. Take a small grocery bag with you to ensure you can carry your trash home. As soon as you're done with something, put it in the bag.
Also, don't hesitate to clean up after someone else. It's either you or the landowner that's going to pick it up. If he doesn't have to do it, there's a good chance you'll get access again next year.
The bottom line is that absolutely no good can come from littering. It damages the reputation of our sports and makes it harder on everybody else. This is prime littering season.
Make sure you're not a part of the problem.
Andy Snyder writes about the outdoors for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.