Saturday is a big day for a lot of youngsters in the York area.
It’s Mentored Youth Trout Day.
Kids 15 and younger get the first shot at the trout recently stocked in the area’s creeks and streams.
It’s a day of fun, learning and, hopefully, sportsmanship. It’s a day when we get to teach the next generation about all aspects of our sport. It’s all about mentoring our youngest anglers.
No doubt, if they’re taught right, many of those youngsters will learn about a perennial issue for the state’s anglers.
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.”
I can already hear Saturday’s conversations — grandfathers telling grandsons about the good ol’ days when virtually nothing was posted. No creek was off limits.
It’s a frustrating subject. And usually around the start of trout season, the frustration 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. It’s a great lesson to teach our youngsters Saturday.
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 what 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? But the unfortunate landowner that has to clean up the mess begs to differ.
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 long-time 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 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? If you’re fishing with a youngster Saturday, the answer is obvious. Talk about it. 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. If some other litterbug leaves something behind, take his trash with you, too. Tell your young angler exactly what you’re doing and why.
If the message gets through, you’ll teach a valuable lesson that may prevent the next generation from battling one of our toughest fights.
Teach them not to litter.
Andy Snyder writes about the outdoors for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.