Interactive Expedition 2000
Final Project for Matthew Swanson

Fishing on the River - When I first was offered this opportunity, I couldn't believe that I was going to be able to go on a trip and study people fishing on the river, and I would also get to do some fishing myself. I like fishing because it is really calming and peaceful, not to mention a lot of fun. When I set out on this journey, I wanted to find out how many people related to fishing on the river. By this i mean how much they fish, how long they fish, and why they fish. Very basic stuff like this. On the side of this I wanted to find out what was happening to the fish on the river. I wanted to know if the fishing was getting better or worse, and why. In order to do this I was going to talk to the people. The people fishing or just people in the towns we stop in.

Once we were off onto the main channel, I could already see a problem on the river. It didn't take before I saw my first dead fish in the water. I found that all along the river you could find dead fish. The main points that I saw the fish were right above the locks. The current would push the fish down the river and some would get stuck in the "fake locks" as Ike calls them. The dead fish kind of discourages fishing. Who wants to go fishing in a place where dead fish remains plaster the shore lines? Most of the people I talked to had no problem with the dead fish. Some people said they were disgusting, but that they had gotten used to it. I was disappointed to discover that some of the people that fish the river contribute to the dead fish on the shore line. As I was talking to one man in Gutenberg he would small fish and proceed to throw them in the rocks behind him. This was kinda disturbing, because those small fish could be some little kids potential first catch; or if you let them grow they could become a record. The old man must not have cared, but it is too bad that this has to happen.

When we reached Guttenberg we talked to a group of students at the local school. It is here that I think I found out how important the fishing was to the people. Less than thirty minutes after school was out, I could identify at least five kids from the classes we had visited fishing near the Lilly Belle. When I talked to them, they said they always go fishing, at least three times a week they said. I also viewed a pair of older men more than 60 who fished for at least three hours before calling it a night. One man said he had been fishing on the river for about sixty years. Sixty years is a long time. The fish were actually safe to eat sixty years ago. That is another thing that shocked me about the local fishermen. All of the people I talked to said that they eat the fish they catch if they are big enough. All of the dead fish lying around and they will still eat the ones they catch. The people's main response to why they go fishing was Ait is fun and something to do. "There are about 62,000 licenced fishermen who fish the Mississippi in Iowa alone. That is just the Mississippi, and only licenced fishermen, not including the youths less than sixteen. That just shows how big a pastime fishing is. When we were in Lansing I asked a woman at a local store what people did for fun she said A they either go to the bar or go fishing." I thought this explained why a lot of people fish who live in little towns. It is a way to pass time. It is a better alternative to causing trouble which some kids like to do, but they just need a push to get started.

When I was on the river, I also discovered what the kind of profit the river brings in. First of all I think I should say my story. In my tackle box I have a lot of tackle that cost a lot of money. I still couldn't catch anything for the first couple of days though. I used everything in box almost. All of the locals said nightcrawlers were the way to go. A two dollar cup of nightcrawlers was suppose to work better than all of my lures. Then after some hints from the local DNR I caught my first fish on a spinnerbait. I will admit that the people using worms did catch more than me, but when I bought worms all I could catch were zebra mussels. You put all that money into catching fish when it is really just luck. Another way the river gives off a profit is fishing licences. Residents fishing on the Mississippi in Iowa brought in about 775,000 dollars buying licence. That doesn't include out of state fishermen like myself either. Another way the river brings in money is through The Wallop-Breaux Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Act. This requires manufacturers to pay ten percent of their profits from fishing tackle, boats, boat motors, boat motor fuel, and licenses. That money is taken and used to restore the sport of fishing. So even if they don't know it, fishermen are helping out fish in the Mississippi River.

This trip has showed me a lot about the people fishing the river. The river has really meant a lot to them. The river gives the people a inexpensive activity that is fun for all ages. Almost anyone can fish, it is just a matter of doing it. The people in these little towns were so into fishing because the river is so accessible to them. While the population of people is growing the number of fish being caught seems to be going down. Many people attribute this to the lock and dams, but the older people say that it all depends on the weather. In all likely hood it has to do in part with the water quality. If people want the future generations to be able to enjoy fishing something has done about it. I think if more people would fish then they would see what I saw about the river, and then something might get done. Otherwise it will just get worse, the river won't sanitize itself.

Learn more about the Interactive Expedition

Center for Global Environmental Education
Hamline University Graduate School of Education
1536 Hewitt Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55104-1284
Phone: 651-523-2480 Fax: 651-523-2987
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