Florida Fish and Wildlife
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Florida Fish and Wildlife
New York Mets First Baseman Pete Alonso has a passion for hunting, fishing, and giving back.
You may know Pete Alonso as the two-time Home Run Derby Champion, three-time Major League Baseball All-Star, and the first basemen for the New York Mets, but did you know he was named the July 2023 Most Valuable Philanthropist by MLB’s Players Trust and has been a staunch supporter of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership since his rookie season in 2019?
MLB’s Players Trust recognizes players whose efforts have made a positive impact on the causes and communities personal to them. Over the course of the regular season, the Players Trust bestows three Most Valuable Philanthropist (MVP) awards to celebrate those who have demonstrated a giving spirit and positive social impact beyond the baseball field. Pete Alonso was recognized in July 2023 with the MVP award for his tireless work with the Alonso Foundation and for supporting causes he cares about – such as the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.
Off the field, Alonso is a lifelong hunter and angler. Fishing in his home waters of Tampa Bay and hunting throughout the country have clearly made a mark on Alonso. This is evident through his charitable work and his advocacy for conservation issues important to the sporting community. Alonso has long supported the conservation work of the TRCP by hosting a fishing trip in Tampa that has been auctioned off at the annual TRCP Capital Conservation Award Dinner, and his zeal for the outdoors has been frequently highlighted in the press, through an appearance on a special episode of MeatEater, hunting mule deer in Colorado with host, and TRCP Board member, Steve Rinella, and his work with TRCP partner, Captains for Clean Water.
Given his altruistic spirit and passion for conservation, it is no surprise that Alonso has partnered with TRCP for the 2023 Fall Sweepstakes, offering everyone the chance to win an expense-paid trip for 2 to Tampa, FL to fish with Pete.
On the field, Pete Alonso hits home runs with the best of them, but his passion and support for guaranteeing all Americans quality places to hunt and fish is a homerun for conservation.
I started fishing tournaments when I was 14 years old. I had a passion for competing and wanted to make it my living. In 1997, when I was 22, Bassmaster came out West and I qualified for their pro bass fishing tour. It was right then that I put everything I owned into storage and never looked back.
As a pro angler for almost the last three decades, I’ve met a lot of great people, and heard from parents how much it meant to their children to see someone with a similar look and background in this sport.
Because fishing is not only my livelihood, but my passion (I love to saltwater fish for fun, and just got back from an offshore tuna fishing excursion), I pay attention to threats to angling in America. One of the biggest, least understood, and most difficult to address threats arrived in this country a long time ago. I’m talking about aquatic invasive species (AIS).
In America, AIS issues range from well-known Asian carp and zebra mussels in the Midwest to lake-choking hydrilla out West, and from sunlight-blocking water hyacinth down South to northern snakeheads and blue catfish in the Chesapeake Bay. If you’re a recreational angler, and especially if you own a boat, there’s a very good chance you’ve already encountered some of these aquatic invasives.
You may know what I’m talking about – you’re in a state that is dealing with zebra mussels or quagga mussels, and you need to pull your drain plugs and be sure livewells are totally dry before you go to another body of water to fish. In California, where I’m from, if you don’t follow these procedures your boat goes into quarantine. But this initiative is critical to preventing further spread of these mussels.
AIS problems represent a huge hassle for anglers and aren’t something we can ignore. If unaddressed, the problems only get worse. Invasive mussels will eventually clog up drinking water or irrigation pipes. Snakeheads will eat everything, from the fish we catch to the prey items in their diets. Invasive vegetation will degrade the habitat of native fish.
And then there are Asian carp.
These invasives, which come in multiple species, including silver and bighead carp, remove plankton that normally provide forage to native bait species. Also, when the bass are in a spawning area, the carp can ruin the beds they’re spawning on with their gluttonous feeding habits.
These carp also leap out of the water when they’re agitated, and I’ve had them fly right into my boat. Imagine going down the lake at 60 miles per hour and having one jump up in front of you. People actually get hospitalized for this.
Maybe the biggest threat aquatic invasives present is the financial burden they put on federal and local economies. Our federal government alone spends an estimated $2.3 billion annually to prevent, control, and eradicate domestic AIS issues. In fact, AIS cause $100 billion worth of damage per year in the U.S.
Those are only big-picture costs. Fishing supports communities, and sometimes the real damage from invasives occurs at a more local level. When AIS take over an area, the fishing gets bad. When fishing gets bad, people stop fishing. Entire communities suffer.
The only good news about the economic damage AIS problems cause is that it has forced politicians and other decision-makers to take notice. People won’t get behind AIS battles unless the economics and dollars are there.
Clearly there’s good reason to want to control, or at least mitigate the damage from, aquatic invasives. The best option is to never allow an exotic species to move into a body of water in the first place. We all play a part in preventing future spread.
Once AIS establish themselves, full eradication is often the ideal solution, even though in most cases it’s not financially feasible or practical to implement. Species like zebra and quagga mussels, and fish like freshwater Asian carp and lionfish in our oceans, offer little benefit to North American environments. If possible, we want to remove them. That’s much easier said than done, however. The best thing is to never allow invasives to gain a foothold in a waterway in the first place.
Myself and other pro anglers on the circuit, along with our sponsors, are already doing our part to help deal with AIS issues. Bassmaster’s Bass Anglers Sportsman Society (B.A.S.S.) offers great information to pro anglers on how to reduce the spread of invasives, and also is now officially part of the national Clean Drain Dry Initiative. And Yamaha Rightwaters, the number-one program where I work on conservation issues, does more than just waterway clean-ups, like the Tennessee River Beautiful effort I’m involved with. Among the program’s initiatives is a national AIS Commission convened with partners like the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.
In 2021, the TRCP worked with Yamaha Rightwaters and other partners to form an AIS commission to improve the prevention, control, and mitigation of aquatic invasives. I chose to be on the commission because I see where things are going with tournament bass fishing, and if I don’t do something to help it could eventually go away.
It was a difficult but great process to try and wrap our minds around such a big issue. Among our recommendations, which were finalized in 2023, were the need to modernize federal law and policy, increase targeted federal funding, maintain access to water for anglers, and increase public education and engagement.
And that’s where you and other anglers come in. Please help do your part to help prevent further AIS spread, to benefit fish populations and our collective angling experiences.
Ishama “Ish” Monroe is a professional bass fisherman with nine career wins, five of them being on the B.A.S.S. tour. He has earned $2.4 million in lifetime prize winnings. Sponsored by Yamaha Motor, Bass Pro Shops, Simms Fishing, Ranger Boats, and other big names in the angling industry, he is based in northern California but competes and volunteers nationally.
Learn more about the AIS Commission and its recommendations here.
New conservation area would sustain voluntary agreements with willing landowners utilizing LWCF dollars
Today, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced a proposal to create a new conservation area in southwest Montana. As proposed, the Missouri Headwaters Conservation Area would advance a vision for the future of working agricultural lands in this region by allowing the use of Land and Water Conservation Fund dollars to conserve working lands through voluntary agreements with landowners in portions of Beaverhead, Madison, Deer Lodge, Jefferson, and Silver Bow Counties.
“The proposed support from the Fish and Wildlife Service for private lands conservation means ranching will remain a strong pillar in this valley,” said Jeff Johnson, a rancher from Dell. “Ranching is tough work, and the development pressures on farms and ranches make it that much tougher. These financial resources are what we need to make sure working lands remain productive.”
The proposal would not allow fee title acquisition and—as proposed—would limit the scale of voluntary conservation easements within the project area to 250,000 acres. Given increasing development pressure on Montana farms and ranches, the conservation area would offer private landowners additional financial options to maintain their agricultural operations, while conserving valuable wildlife habitat.
“Southwest Montana provides some of the finest wildlife habitat and hunting country found anywhere,” said Chris Marchion with Anaconda Sportsman’s Club. “The Fish and Wildlife Service’s proposal for southwest Montana will make funding available to keep agricultural lands in production, while maintaining the wildlife habitat that supports our hunting traditions.”
The Fish and Wildlife Service has an extensive history of working with landowners to create private land conservation areas in Montana, and similar project areas have long existed on the Rocky Mountain Front and in the Blackfoot River Valley.
“Voluntary private lands conservation has been a success story for wildlife and working lands across Montana for decades,” said Joel Webster, VP of western conservation for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “We are excited about this proposal to support Montana farms, ranches, and wildlife habitat, and we encourage the Fish and Wildlife Service to listen to local landowners as they refine the proposal.”
A public comment period is expected to commence on Sept. 20 and run through Oct. 26.
Learn more about TRCP’s conservation work in southwest Montana here.
Photo Credit: James Wicks
Paper Trails was filmed nearly a year ago, but the memories are still fresh for Mason
With a Wyoming pronghorn antelope hunt as a backdrop, Paper Trails and its characters, including Mason, uncover the challenges hunters and other outdoor recreationists face when accessing and navigating their public lands and describe what’s being done to improve that access.
TRCP: With hunting season around the corner, we have to ask—did you draw another pronghorn tag this year?
Mason: I didn’t, but two of my kids drew the same tag I had last year. So we’re excited to get back out there this season!
TRCP: The buck you took last year was great, and from the film it looked like you put in some serious work to find access. Can you talk about some of the challenges that arise when navigating public access in areas with mixed public-private ownership?
Mason: The biggest challenge is just to make sure you don’t trespass and cause frustrations for local landowners. I study maps and apps intently to ensure I know where to go and where not to go. Even with studying maps, though, there is nothing like ground-truthing. Sometimes access looks easy on a map, but then you get there, and the road on the map either doesn’t exist or isn’t a public road. It can be very frustrating, but very rewarding when you do it right and respect all landowners in the area.
We saw a lot of pronghorn and discovered new areas to access that I couldn’t in the past thanks to a walk-in program.
TRCP: What were your expectations going into the hunt?
Mason: I had hunted this area in the past, but it had been a while. My expectations were to see a few pronghorn on land I could hunt and then make the most of limited opportunities. Thankfully, though, we saw a lot of pronghorn and discovered new areas to access that I couldn’t in the past thanks to a walk-in program administered by the Wyoming Game & Fish and private landowners.
TRCP: Your buck didn’t take a step after the shot—what rifle and cartridge were you shooting?
Mason: I was using a Savage Impulse Mountain Hunter rifle in 6.5 PRC with a 143 grain ELD-X bullet from Hornady in their Precision Hunter line of ammunition. It definitely did the job quickly and cleanly. It was actually the first animal harvested with that new rifle, which was pretty cool for this film. That round is amazingly flat-shooting and accurate.
TRCP: What was uncovered during the research and filming of Paper Trails that surprised you the most?
Mason: The sheer volume of records that are managed by the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, state county offices, etc. It truly was dumbfounding when we were in the Forest Service’s Missoula office, as well as the passion and attention to detail of their personnel like Will Pedde. They see it as their life’s work and are very dedicated to managing all of those records.
TRCP: How will you use the knowledge you gained from that hunt this season?
Mason: I plan to impress upon our audience at Eastmans’, as well as my children, on just how precious our access is to public land and how we all need to do our best to be good stewards on public and private lands to ensure we are able to have that access in the future.
TRCP: What’s your #1 tip for hunting pronghorn?
Mason: Don’t act sneaky! Hahaha…it seems the sneakier I try to act, the more I scare them off. I’ve discovered that if you act too interested in them, they’ll turn tail and be in the next county before you know it. Have patience and have fun. Pronghorn hunting is such a fun way to spend time with family and friends, so don’t take yourself too seriously when you’re out there.
TRCP: What made pronghorn the perfect hunt to highlight the challenges and opportunities of public access?
Mason: Pronghorn live in some of the most checkerboarded landscapes out West. To be successful year in and year out, it is imperative to hunt similar areas as often as possible and do your homework on public land access well in advance of the hunt itself. Pronghorn hunting is often a challenge to the public land hunter, which makes them the perfect species to highlight access opportunities.
TRCP: What are some of the tools you use to help identify and navigate public access?
Mason: Obviously onX has changed the game and made us all more intuitive hunters. I’m also a map geek and love pouring over maps, using a compass, and studying topography and landscape features to not only navigate public access, but also to understand where animals can predictably be out on the landscape, no matter what state I’m in.
TRCP: What advice about access would you give to hunters heading to a new area to hunt this season?
Mason: Start your research early, talk to game and fish officials, land management agencies, other hunters on forums, friends and family that have hunted that same area and/or that same species in the past, and just soak it all in. Life is a series of data points on a graph. Data points form clusters, and the clusters tell a story. It takes time, and each experience helps you have fun and be successful in the next opportunity. That goes for all things in life…not just hunting. I’m always gleaning information from everything and everyone around me in my day-to-day life.
Photo Credit: Eastmans’ Hunting Journals
Theodore Roosevelt’s experiences hunting and fishing certainly fueled his passion for conservation, but it seems that a passion for coffee may have powered his mornings. In fact, Roosevelt’s son once said that his father’s coffee cup was “more in the nature of a bathtub.” TRCP has partnered with Afuera Coffee Co. to bring together his two loves: a strong morning brew and a dedication to conservation. With your purchase, you’ll not only enjoy waking up to the rich aroma of this bolder roast—you’ll be supporting the important work of preserving hunting and fishing opportunities for all.Learn More