Texas Daily Life

Workers remove a ball of trash from the lawn of the Texas Capitol on April 29, 2015. The Texas Department of Transportation used the ball as a prop as part of the “Don’t mess with Texas” anti-litter campaign. Today a movement has begun among outdoorsmen in Central Texas to team up with anti-litter groups to put a stop to local littering. Interested parties can join the movement Saturday at 8:30 a.m. at the Waco Suspension Bridge.

Associated Press — Eric Gay, file

Walking up to a spot on the riverbank or shoreline that’s littered with somebody else’s garbage is all too common. But decent, responsible anglers are organizing and teaming up with other anti-litter groups to bring attention to the issue and clean up messes left by the lazy and irresponsible among us.

Most outdoorsmen practice conservation of not only fish and wildlife, but also the habitats that sustain them – and us. A movement has begun among anglers and hunters who are teaming up with anti-litter groups, to slam the brakes on people who trash our lakes, fields and streams. Central Texans can join the cleanup movement today at 8:30 a.m. at the Waco Suspension Bridge.

Nearly a dozen fishing and anti-litter groups from around the state, including locally-run Fish On! and Group W Bench, will slap on the gloves and fill trash bags with the flotsam and jetsam that thoughtless fishermen either left behind or that washed into the Brazos via creeks and drainage ditches running through Waco.

Fish On! creator Andre Bravo helped organize today’s river cleanup and says groups as far away as the Dallas-Fort Worth area are coming to town to work on beautifying the Brazos.

“We also have some local groups taking part,” he said. “Including Group W Bench. Bruce Huff got Keep Waco Beautiful to help out with trash bags, pickers and other materials.”

Organizers recommend bringing gloves for protection.

Bravo says anglers are tired of seeing trash being left behind at fishing spots and hopes this event will make people think.

“Maybe by doing this, it will open people’s eyes and they’ll start doing the same thing the rest of us do,” he said. “I firmly believe in leaving my fishing spots cleaner than how I found them.”

And keeping trash in its proper place isn’t only about aesthetics – it’s also about access. There are plenty of places around Lake Waco that are barricaded off with rusty pipe fences that used to be open to automobile traffic. Officials point to the cost of dealing with excessive litter and vandalism as primary reasons for the barriers.

Huff stressed the importance of getting people to do the right thing. He has approached Waco’s litter problem through both boots-on-the-ground action and political pressure.

“A police officer once told me that as long as folks are allowed to misbehave, they will,” he said.

Huff pushed for legislation to increase littering penalties. Rep. Charles “Doc” Anderson filed a bill in the Texas Legislature that would add up to 60 hours of community service for people cited for littering – whether they throw trash out of a car window, dump trash at unauthorized sites or leave garbage behind on a river bank. Governor Abbott is expected to sign the bill into law.

“It’s a crying shame that when you want to take the family out for a fishing trip, you’re assaulted by plastics and other litter that has accumulated in places that should be beautiful,” Huff said, adding that Group W Bench has collected nearly 35,000 pounds of trash in just seven months.

Bravo also puts feet to Huff’s ideas, sharing his message with anglers and others he meets while fishing.

“I recently told some kids at the Suspension Bridge who throw tortillas on the pillar to take the tortilla bags with them or drop them into a trash can instead of tying them onto the bridge rails,” he said.

Most people I know take a trash bag along on a trip to the outdoors. It doesn’t take up much space, and it’s easy to rightly dispose of at the end of the day. Bravo and others in the fishing groups promote keeping the outdoors as natural and beautiful as possible. Events like Saturday’s river cleanup not only teach kids the right things to do, but also show people who either don’t know or don’t care that they’re under a microscope.

Nobody wants to know what you ate, drank, smoked, used for bait or even that you were ever there. Take a trash bag and use it.

Today is Free Fishing Day!

Saturday is Free Fishing Day in Texas, offering a no-excuses opportunity to try out or rediscover the fun and challenges of catching fish, and the Lake Waco Wetlands is hosting a fishing event from 9 a.m. – noon at Nora’s Pond to celebrate.

The pond will be stocked with catfish, and people of all ages can fish without a license on that day. Anglers can use up to 2 poles each, and there’s a 5-fish limit per person. A limited number of rods and reels will be available for use if needed.

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