Everglades Park Angling Threatened

Need to toughen up those arms a bit? Maybe hit the gym? Instead, try this:

Pole your flats skiff from near Islamorada all the way to Flamingo in the Everglades National Park.

You’ll develop arms like a caveman, assuming you survive such an all-day torture trip.

The creep-speed journey would be required for the 20-plus miles under a proposed management alternative hatched by planners in the National Park Service.

Huge areas now enjoyed by flats boat anglers would be shut off to normal boat travel as part of the park service’s apparent scheme to ban combustion engines and restrict power to paddling or electric trolling motor in large areas.

Just the idea of ruining traditional trips that have meant so much to so many is a jolt to the stomach. “Well, that’s the end of my life,” lamented a Chokoloskee skiff guide. “It’s over for me.”

The crusty veteran may be over-reacting, it should be noted, because some of the park’s other alternatives are less draconian.

Still, we get the clear message that the bureaucrats running the park these days have little regard for recreational fishing, viewing personal fishing as something more to be endured than fostered. Teddy Roosevelt would shed a tear—or explode in anger.

Interestingly, state officials reluctantly went along with closing half of the Dry Tortugas National Park (same management, by the way), but with much hard-line warnings that the Tortugas lock-out would be the end of such zones.

Now, coming in a side door, are possible rules that are not fishing regulations per se but serve the same function by making normal travel difficult to impossible. Gov. Charlie Crist (who opposed the Tortugas ban) and Fish and Wildlife Chair Rodney Barreto are likely to oppose the severe park proposals, to their credit.

That said, many anglers, including us, have no objection to a few reasonably sized off-plane zones that maintain peace and quiet on a flat. But to impose miles and miles of creep-speed-only makes no sense.

Also, we’re all for canoe and kayak power, while realizing that a million-acre park must also welcome appropriate power as part of its hospitality.

Read about the park’s alternatives, with the planners’ special spin that implies little change, at parkplanning.nps.gov and respond to their public input form. Or write to Everglades Planning Team/NPS, 12795 W. Alameda Parkway, Denver, CO 80225.

They’d like to hear from you (we trust) by July 2 but will accept comments anytime.

It would be an outrageous shame, and then some, to see the Everglades’ rich heritage of backcountry angling stifled in an increasing atmosphere of anti-fishing sentiment.

We’d suggest that some major changes in outlook are in order.