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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Boaters: Don’t Let July 4th Be Your Undoing

11:13 AM 0 Comments
BoatUS: Nation’s Birthday Requires Special Caution

photo courtesy of BoatUS

ALEXANDRIA, Va., June 25, 2014 – A long day on the water exposed to the elements combined with crowded waterways and alcohol consumption could be a recreational boater’s ultimate undoing this July 4th holiday weekend. “It’s mayhem,” said BoatUS Foundation President Chris Edmonston, “So pull out all the stops and make safety priority #1 to ensure you have a wonderful time on the water.” BoatUS suggests these tips to enjoy America’s birthday on on a boat:

Everyone wants to see the show: Every boat owner becomes popular on July 4th because they’ve “got boat”. Whoa, that doesn’t mean everyone can safely come aboard. Overloading combined with intense wake action always spells trouble on recreational boating’s most highly-trafficked holiday. Keep to your boat’s capacity limit, ensure everyone has a seat inside the boat, and have a life jacket for everyone aboard. Wearing life jackets, especially after the fireworks end when the risk of a nighttime collision is the greatest, is a wise move.

Get all of the lights working: In the dark, the only way to determine a boat’s direction is by seeing its navigation lights. Fix any broken lights before you go – and ensure they are visible from 360 degrees. You may be surprised to learn that just because the light switch is turned on, it doesn’t mean your nav lights can be seen from every quarter.

Paddlers, resist the urge: Stand up paddleboards, kayaks and canoes are great – but not in the middle of a nighttime fireworks display. Wearing a headlamp or hanging glowsticks around your neck isn’t enough to be seen and may confuse other boaters. If you do insist on going out, stay very close to shore and away from any boating traffic, have USCG-approved nav lights, and keep clear of any channels, marinas or launch ramp areas. Assume that no one can see you.

Patience is a virtue: Wait a little bit after the fireworks show ends for boating traffic to thin out before you haul anchor. It’s also better to pass other boats astern to avoid anchor line entanglements – one of the top reasons why boaters will call for on water assistance from the TowBoatUS or Vessel Assist fleets. BoatUS reports their 24-hour dispatch call center switchboards (800-391-4869) light up like a Christmas tree after the fireworks shows end.

Check your dock: Before you invite everyone down to the lake house, ensure that any dock with electric service or a boat tied up to it isn’t leaking any stray current into the water. Minute amounts of alternating current in fresh water can be hazardous to swimmers and lead to Electric Shock Drowning. An easy way to check your dock is with a circuit tester and a clamp meter. If in doubt, just shut off all electricity to the dock, relax, and enjoy the fireworks.

Boat Sober: While it’s embarrassing to be arrested for boating while intoxicated, it also means the boat driver has forgotten his or her responsibility to keep everyone aboard safe. Wait until after you’ve tied up for the night before drinking, or one of the hundreds of law enforcement officers assigned to increased patrols may have to remind you in a very unpleasant, humiliating and costly way. Drunk driving on the water can cost you your car driver’s license, too.

Please keep these things in mind while planning your Forth of July outing and remember SAFETY FIRST!

About BoatUS:
Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS) is the nation’s leading advocate for recreational boaters providing its over half-million members with government representation, services such as 24-hour dispatch, on water boat towing as well as roadside assistance for boat trailers and tow vehicles, feature-packed boat insurance programs, money-saving benefits including marina and service discounts, and vital information that improves recreational boating. Its member-funded BoatUS Foundation is a national leader promoting safe, clean and responsible boating and offers range of boating safety courses – including 33 free state courses – that can be found at


Sunday, June 8, 2014

Time to Speak Up; Time to Speak Out

7:48 AM 2 Comments

Unfortunately it seems I have ruffled a feather or two in the bowfishing community, and the issue has become so intense with some, that after consulting with a few trusted outdoor media colleagues and my legal advisors, the general consensus was that the best course of action was to simply speak up and speak out and then walk away from the fray.

On April 24th  of this year the following announcement was made by Ed DeVries, President of Bowfishing Association of Illinois:


Starting April 2015 bowfishers will be allowed to take a 6 fish limit of channel cat from the Illinois   River between the starved rock dam and Dresden dam.

Now bowfishers will be able to harvest another fish that are excellent on the table thanks to the IDNR and the efforts of your BAI! Currently channel cats are a commercial fish that can be caught on trot line, bank pole, hook and line and now by bowfishing. Very cool news!”

After reading the announcement I sent the following message to Mr. DeVries via Facebook’s messaging system:

Gretchen Steele

Truthfully Ed, I don't support the catfish. I see too many people that do not know the difference between a channel cat, a blue or flathead. If they can't tell the difference between them on a jug or trot line or pole and line, I doubt that they will be able to tell the difference in the water. The commercial fishermen in this area will likely fight it. They are struggling for decent catch numbers now. They aren't anti bowfishing by any means, they just are unlikely to support adding another method to take cats from a population that's already starting to dwindle down. I know this is just an area that we will have to agree to disagree, good luck with the pilot program - I hope that it proves my concerns wrong.

After researching the announced rule change and program with DNR I discovered that BAI had only sent the proposal to DNR and that no rule change had been made, nor had it been placed on the regulatory agenda for consideration.

I wrote about the proposal in my blog at Heartland Outdoors. You may read that blog entry HERE.

Following that post Mr. DeVries began, for lack a of a better term, a well documented  smear campaign that included calling for boycotts of publications that publish my work and their advertisers, calling for my immediate removal from the various pro staff positions I hold etc. As time went on the campaign became increasingly defamatory both personally and professionally.

I chose to simply ignore the situation, as that seemed to me to be the best and most professional choice.  As the old adage says, “Don’t feed the trolls.”  Thankfully the bulk of the incessant ranting and raving has been largely ignored and limited to primarily internet sites, social media and internet forums. More thankfully, my sponsors, publishers, editors and the companies I Pro Staff for simply laughed it off and continue to do so.

Then on Friday May 6th I received a request from Mr, DeVries for an e mail interview, with an attached list of questions that ranged from disingenuous at best to bordering on threatening demands at worst.

I respectfully declined his request based on several factors; the history of the defamatory campaign against me personally and professionally, there was no vetting or credentialing of Mr. DeVries as a journalist provided, and it’s truly a non issue at this point. The proposal is merely a proposal on a desk at DNR. It’s old news. It’s 15 minutes of fame has come and gone.  If and when it the proposal is placed on the regulatory agenda and sent to the rules committee I will revisit the issue as outdoor media; but until then I consider it a non issue.

However Mr. DeVries chose to follow up my denial of the request with an overtly adversarial and threatening email that compelled me to provide the whole mess to my legal advisor.

While I can’t imagine that anyone finds my opinion all that noteworthy, compelling, or influential. Contrary to Mr. DeVries claims that I am afraid to speak up; I am not afraid to share my opinion.I just saw no reason to engage in some childish internet based flaming war, nor provide an interview to someone who has repeatedly misquoted me, and made blatantly untrue claims about me. I fully expect to find cut and pasted excerpts of this post used in more of the ridiculous claims being made by BAI. So here we are – here’s how I feel regarding the BAI proposal to allow bowfishing for channel catfish with a daily creel limit of six between Starved Rock Dam and Dresden Dam.

I am not “100% against bowfishing for catfish” as has been reported. However, I do not and will not support the proposal as it is written. I feel that by making it specific to channel catfish this opens up the door for the possibility of accidental violations when bowfishers inadvertently arrow a different species of catfish. I see too many cases of people incorrectly identifying catfish, and feel it could be difficult for the average recreational bowfisher to always correctly identify the specific catfish species.

I also feel that limited area of the pilot program waters is insufficient to determine it’s effect on the catfish population statewide. Perhaps a better choice would be to also have pilot or test programs in several bodies of water throughout the entire state, along with creel surveys so that DNR can determine exactly how many catfish are being taken by bowfishers, along with all other anglers who take catfish.

By choosing only that body of water, it could give the appearance of favoring northern Illinois over southern, causing more feelings of abandonment by anglers and bowfishers who reside in southern Illinois. It creates more ill will and feelings of division between southern and northern Illinois, and frankly there’s enough of that already.

I think that this could well be a precedent setting rule change that could open up the door for further proposals to allow bowfishing for additional species that are currently considered game or sport fish.

I think that bowfishing for catfish could be feasible in specific waters at specific times, but this is a decision that should be made with input from all user groups including commercial fishermen, bowfishermen, pole and line anglers, netters, etc. after a careful study of the overall health of the catfish populations and input from regional fisheries biologists.

I think that all user groups must be willing to discuss the issue openly, constructively, civilly, and be willing to make good faith concessions in effort to find a solution palatable to all.

Lastly, I am not anti hunting, anti bowfishing, or anything of sort. I am however a conservationist first and bowfisher second.

I am saddened that this post even had to be made. In my gut I still feel that I shouldn't feed the trolls so to speak, but I realize that my silence only allows this to continue and could possibly be construed that the claims made are true.

It saddens me that any single person or organization that is supposed to represent the bowfishing community can create such a controversy and adversarial situation that it causes division among our ranks.

So there you have it – That’s how I feel about the bowfishing for catfish proposal, despite what you may hear, read, or see being put forth by any detractors.

With that said – Let’s all just go fishing (by whatever method you prefer) and forget about this proposal until such time it is placed on the regulatory agenda and sent to rules committee. It truly is much ado about nothing at this juncture.