As an avid outdoorsman, I love the concept of conserving our environment while enjoying all that Mother Nature has to offer. Enjoying the outdoors was was rooted in me from a young age by my parents, and something that I enjoy sharing with my daughter.
It was not until I was in my late teens that I began to learn and understand the value of conservation. While my parents would have never littered or intentionally harmed our environment, conservation was just not something that I was taught.
I was bumming around the great state of Colorado, backpacking and rock climbing, when I was first introduced to the concept of LNT. It is a philosophy that I bought into back then, and still believe in today. At the time some of the principles seemed a bit much, but I decided to give it a shot. I went pretty far into practicing LNT; if we are ever enjoying an adult beverage together I could be coaxed into talking about some of the rather creative (many times uncomfortable) natural forms of toilet paper I’ve used. A little secret - the brief time that I spent in Baja was the worst when it came to going all-natural in that department. But enough about me and my experiences with LNT…
Yes, I was also a wee bit of a hippy back then
LNT refers to a set of ethics promoting conservation in the outdoors. While there are many different activities about which LNT has published information, they are always based on seven core principles:
- Plan ahead and prepare
- Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
- Dispose of waste properly
- Leave what you find
- Minimize campfire impacts
- Respect wildlife
- Be considerate of other visitors
The member-driven Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics teaches people how to enjoy the outdoors responsibly. This copyrighted information has been reprinted with permission from the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics: www.LNT.org
Now, I will say that if you grew up not knowing about the LNT philosophy, some of the below may seem a little extreme. Keep in mind that the end goal is to preserve our environment and to NOT be a buzz kill on your enjoyment of the outdoors.
Take a look at the seven core principles for LNT as they relate to fishing:
Plan ahead and prepare
- Know the local fishing and boating regulations for the area where you’ll fish. Obtain licenses and stamps and have them with you.
- Use a personal floatation device where required and/or appropriate.
- Learn to identify the different species of fish in the area where you’ll be fishing.
- Obey the limits on size and quantity of fish you are allowed to keep. Abide by regulations concerning types of bait and tackle permitted.
- Prepare for extreme weather, hazards, and emergencies.
- Plan your trip to avoid times of high use.
Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
- Durable surfaces include rock, gravel, water, established trails and campsites, sand, or snow.
- Concentrate use on existing trails, campsites and boat launches.
- Focus activity in areas where vegetation is absent.
- Avoid trampling aquatic vegetation when wading. Refrain from wading in spawning areas when possible.
- Enter and leave water sources at places where the banks are low or where there are gravel bars.
- In pristine areas disperse us to prevent the creation of new campsites and trails.
- Protect riparian areas by camping at least 200 feet from lakes and streams.
Dispose of Waste Properly
- Pack it in, Pack it out (Leave with what your brought). Inspect your camp and rest areas for trash of spilled foods. Pack out all monofilament fishing line, leftover live bait, and bait cups.
- Avoid using lead sinkers and jigs. If lead sinkers are found, pack out for proper disposal.
- Use established bathrooms when available. If not available, deposit solid human waste in catholes dug to 6” to 8” deep and 200’ away from water sources.
- Check with local land managers for regulations on disposal of fish entrails. Pack out entrails when possible. If burial is not possible, deep-water deposition or moving water deposition are acceptable options in most areas.
- To wash yourself or your dishes, carry water 200’away from streams or lakes and use small amounts of biodegradable soap. Scatter strained dishwater.
Leave What You Find
- When practicing “catch and release” use barbless hooks and be sure to not injure the fish. Do not fish the fish to exhaustion, use a rod and line of sufficient strength, and avoid suspending fish out of water by the fishing line. Keep fish in water when handling for release, and do not touch gills.
- Carry and use needle-nose pliers or hemostats for hook removal.
- Take care not to introduce non-native species to water sources and surrounding areas. Pack out all unused bait and dispose of properly (e.g. worms, minnows, leeches) and properly wash all equipment between fishing trips.
- Avoid transferring fish from one watershed to another.
- Preserve the past: observe, but do not touch, cultural or historic structures and artifacts.
Minimize Campfire Impacts
- Campfires can cause lasting impacts. Use a lightweight stove for cooking when possible.
- Where fires are permitted use established fire rings, mound fires, or fire pans and consider bringing your own firewood.
- Keep fires small and use only dead and downed wood that can be broken by hand.
- Burn all wood and charcoal to ash. Ensure that fire is completely out and properly dispose of cold ashes by scattering or packing out.
- Respect fish by humanely dispatching catches you keep with a quick blow to the back of the head with a rock or other solid object.
- Refrigerate or eat fish quickly to avoid wasting them. Check local regulations on using stringers.
- Use caution when cooking fish in bear country.
- Never feed wildlife. Feeding wildlife damages their health, alters natural behaviors, and exposes them to predators and other dangers.
- Control pets, or leave them at home.
Be Considerate of Other Visitors
- Respect other visitors, and protect the quality of their experience.
- Powerboats should usually yield the right-of-way to non-motorized craft. Slower boats should keep to the right.
- If using a radio, keep volume low or wear headphones - let nature’s sounds prevail.
- Pick campsites that are away from shoreline or trails, and avoid crowding other visitors.
While I can honestly say that I am not as hardcore as I once was when it comes to these practices, I do still believe that they are truly what we should be striving to do as kayak anglers and as conservationists.
For more information regard LNT please visit their website https://lnt.org.