Our Outdoors
Nick Simonson

Its sad that some people have no respect for the outdoors or their surrounding

As I shuffled down the rain-soaked bank I paused and swore something was following me. I took another step and heard the grass rustle behind me. I slowly looked back over my shoulder, expecting to see a mountain lion, an angry mother goose or at least a muskrat. There was nothing. Only after a few more steps would I learn the true identity of creature which was stalking me on my way down to fish the shoreline.

Glancing down at my boot, I was almost relieved to see a double-wrapping of monofilament around my ankle. Ten feet behind me was what looked to be Stren Clear-Blue in eight-pound test wrapped around a ball of dried grass.

The feeling of relief quickly turned to anger as I wrestled the mess off of my leg and balled up the mono and grass wad and put it in my oversize jacket pockets. From that point on I began seeing trash everywhere. Beer cans old and new, knotted balls of mono and superline, cigarette butts and more were strewn about the shoreline from the Dam down to the Honey Hole.

Maybe it is because the fishing has been bad, or that the high winds and rain already were making fishing unpleasant, but for some reason I just kept getting madder and madder with each piece of trash I saw. Most of the garbage was new, deposits left behind by last weekend's hordes; who obviously had done well, judging by the Y-shaped sticks towering above their deposits of untarnished pop cans and still-clear plastic pop bottles. I picked up all my jacket and hands could carry in addition to my rod and tackle box. Two wads of mono, four aluminum cans and a pop bottle.

Without fail, these objects appear every spring on the shores of the places like the Sheyenne River, Channel A, Garrison Tailrace and every other body of water in the state. Some items are there because anglers leave them there amidst the fishing frenzy that occurs each spring, others because they wash down from gutters and storm sewers in spring rains or they melt free from winter's snow and ice.

There are two primary sources for this springtime deposit of trash and they both come from the same species: litterbugs who fish, and litterbugs in general.

We've all been guilty of littering at one point or another in our lives whether intentional or not, some trash blows out of the pickup bed, a cigarette butt is flicked out the window, or a piece of paper is torn from our hands by a brisk April wind. Sometimes even I forget a ripped up grub or tube on the shore, but that doesn't make my complaint any less genuine. Every year, most noticeably in the spring, the good anglers are separated from the bad by the piles they leave behind or the piles they pick up during their pursuit of fish.

I would hope I'm preaching to the choir when I say to my fellow anglers "pick up after you!" It looks disgusting on the shore, makes the experience unpleasant for others, and threatens wildlife and their habitat. The more important message in this column is, "pick up after others!" Unlike phoning in a poaching violation or taking down the number of a license plate, picking up just one piece of trash that isn't yours takes much less effort and does not have the worry level that getting involved in a criminal report does. It truly is the least an outdoorsman can do to make the experience better for everyone else.

For those who do not fish who might be reading this column the message is the same. Pick up after yourself and pick up after others. Don't toss a beer can out the window on a country cruise or leave a restaurant's Styrofoam cup in the gutter. If you see a piece of trash lying around on the street, sidewalk or boulevard, pick it up. Put it in a nearby garbage can or a bag. If you don't, it will end up in the river, or a lake, or your kids' playground or baseball field. Act like no one else will pick it up. You wouldn't live amidst trash at home, why in the block around you or the park nearby?

A late Saturday in April was Earth Day. Whether you're a greenie, an outdoorsman, a tree-hugger an industrialist or just a human being, this day represents a great deal to our dwindling connections as a society with our environment. I challenge you to pick up two pieces of trash that don't belong to you - just two. It's a simple start and that's all I'm asking. But you'll find that taking the next step is just as easy. Make it a point to pick up a can or a pop bottle every time you go outside. Soon, whether your fish, hunt, bird watch or just like to walk around town, you'll see the difference that one person can make. Take the spirit of Earth Day into every day.

In closing, based on some of my columns I've been criticized before for saying that the river that flows through my hometown is "my river." People have called me self-centered and have reminded me that I "don't own the river or anything in it." For the record, I know it isn't my river, and I know I don't own it, but I sure wish everyone else felt like I do about it, and if they did, they would treat other waters they visit as their own. Perhaps then, piles of garbage wouldn't stalk us on the shores of lakes and rivers each spring…in our outdoors.