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Introductory Comments

Sometimes, a look back at the past can be fun. This is one of those for me. I hope you enjoy it and that it makes you think about the NEXT 10 years.

In 1989, I was asked to do a piece for Game and Fish Publications on what fishing in Florida might be like during the next decade. After wrestling with the issue for a while, I decided that very few of the changes we might see would be peculiar to Florida. So, the predictions were generally across-the-board.

Boats, lines, crowded waters - a lot of things are reality today. Others, such as adjustable actions on rod blanks, are possible but not implemented yet.

A real travesty is that the status of Florida's Lake Okeechobee has not changed one bit and has actually gotten worse. Politicians talk big words, but their actions are directed only at raising money to get re-elected.

Jim Porter

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THE OUTLOOK FOR THE 1990's

By Jim Porter

[AUTHOR'S NOTE: When Editor Jimmy Jacobs asked me to do this article, I was somewhat apprehensive. And, trying to get members of the fishing tackle, fishing electronics, and boating industries to discuss their future innovations was like trying to pry national defense secrets from the Pentagon. High technology and, understandably, competition for the anglers' dollars basically made 'no comment' the standard reply. However, we did receive some outstanding brainstorming' inputs from selected anglers when we asked what they might like to see in equipment and boats by the turn of the century. We mixed all the opinions and 'wish lists' into a potpourri that the reader will hopefully find interesting, while at the same time generating thought about the future of Florida fresh water fishing.]

Sometime during the 1990's,we predict that you can expect these to become realities:

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"Good morning, Water Recreation Area user. Do you have your reservation number?" the twangy computer-synthesized voice requests. "If so, please enter it and your last name into the alpha-numeric keyboard on the access gate control panel and wait for your coded access ticket to be processed. At the tone, take the ticket from the dispensing slot at the left of the keyboard, proceed straight ahead to the launching area, and take a position in the ready line. If you do not have an advance reservation, please pull your vehicle into the waiting area of the space-available processing compound to your right-front."

You reach and take your access ticket from the slot, triggering further information to come spewing forth.

"Before proceeding", the, emotionless metallic voice continues, "please be advised that, due to the reservation load for this control period, your allowed angling time is 2 hours and 43 minutes. Please note your assigned ramp time for re-trailering your boat. Lateness will automatically result in a monetary penalty and exclusion from this Water Recreation Area for one month. Today's bag limits on game fish are: two panfish per angler; no largemouth, smallmouth or striped bass may be kept until further notice. The northern half of the lake is reserved for water ski and recreational boating use on odd-numbered days of the month, while the South portion is reserved for fishing. On even-numbered days, please reverse the assignments. Accordingly, note today's date and the coded access ticket for your allotted section of the lake. The mid-point of the lake is noted by a series of orange buoys. Thank you."

Fondly recalling the `good old days' of fewer restrictions, you move to the rear of the slowly moving line leading to the launch ramp. The sign to the right reminds all that `Due to the numbers of skiers and swimmers using this Water Recreation Area, as well as for safety, no propeller-driven motors are allowed; only jet drives. Additionally, no combustion engines using petroleum-based fuels are allowed; only non-polluting compressed gas or hydrogen-based propulsion fuels are authorized.'

As you wait your turn to launch, a glance at the clock shows your allotted fishing time is becoming ever shorter. And, since you must use barb-less hooks, are prohibited from using depth sounders and other electronics aids, and must release virtually all fish anyway, the thought emerges that all this hassle may not really be worth the effort for a couple of hours of fishing.

You certainly paid enough for the enjoyment, what with the fishing license, special bass stamp, monthly boat registration fee, Recreation Area reservation and user fees (by the hour, naturally), access road toll, launch ramp charge, parking permits, license surcharge for using live baits, and the numerous other `contributions'.

Well, for sure some of the fishery and water management techniques developed and validated during the 1980's have proven that portions of those contributions were well spent. Statewide slot limits have done more to improve bass fishing conditions than any other regulation. By protecting the prime breeding stock between 14 and 22 inches, a quality fry hatch is realized each year, not to mention the constant population of 2-8 pound fish. From studies done in the 70's and 80's, in locations such as the Tenoroc State Reserve, slot control was determined to be the most positive fishery management tool available, short of the undesirable imposition of total catch-and-release. And, the selected reduction of bag limits on lakes recently undergoing a drawdown and a subsequent spawning boom was noted effective in protecting young 8-14 inch bass.

As you and your angling partner prepare the boat for launch, you note some of the improvements in angling equipment in the past decade.

Your new boat is a far cry from the designs of only a few years ago. New lightweight synthetic materials, with the molecular strength to allow injection-molding (similar to the way plastic fishing worms are made), have led the industry away from hand-laid forms and spray-gun building of bass boat hulls and top caps. Now, a boat is single-piece construction with sufficient inherent elasticity in the materials to be nearly indestructible. The boat material has an extremely low coefficient-of-friction, allowing the hull to glide effortlessly across the water. On the upper portion of the boat, this same material dissipates heat exceptionally well and prevents heat build-up even during days under a summer sun. In addition, this solid material construction allows for shaving of the hull surface (much like shaping the lens of an eyeglass) to change shapes and tailor the amount of lift generated, providing maximum performance from any given motor size.

The live-wells are highly insulated and have a closed and self-contained filtration, re-circulation and cooling system. In addition, a metered oxygen injection device treats the water. Once the wells are initially filled for the day, this adjustable system maintains the perfect life-sustaining environment for a species of fish. As with most devices on your boat, the supporting power source is the platinum-dioxide solar panel system that is layered just under the entire upper surface of the boat cap. With an efficiency rating of near 68 percent, this solar collection system is capable of powering all boat equipment and maintaining constant full charge on the back-up lithium-nickel battery pack during daylight hours.

Your outboard motor is one of the newer models, with a rotary engine design similar to the `RX-series' engines pioneered by Mazda automobiles in the 70's and 80's. In this application, the design uses two counter-rotating `pistons' to add smoothness and eliminate the rotational torque, which normally would effect steering. The efficiency is approximately six-times that of the old 2-cycle gasoline engines of a few years earlier. This power system is designed to run from an on-board supply of compressed gas (a hydrogen-enhanced methane derivative, to be exact). No more internal carbon build-up or fuel filter problems, nor are spark plug changes ever required. Additionally, the by-products of the combustion of this fuel are heat (i.e., power) and harmless water vapor, so there is virtually no exhaust emission and no pollution. Noise abatement, a concern on today's crowded lakes, is excellent, with this engine making only a soft `whirring' sound. The engine block, as well as many of its internal components, is molded from a plastic-like synthetic compound, somewhat similar to that making up the boat hull. This material has a rarefied carbon/graphite composite base whose coefficient of friction decreases with the rise in temperature and, therefore, requires no lubricating oils for the cylinder walls. Rotating bearing surfaces are made of similar, oil-impregnated materials for lifetime service. And, with the highly efficient jet-drive lower unit, dangerous and inefficient propellers are a thing of the past.

Your matched rods are really wonders of modern technology. Weighing less than an ounce apiece, they are virtually unbreakable and can even take an occasional pounding in a car door. Injection-molded of a material very similar to that used for the boat, these completely one-piece instruments have their guides and handles pre-formed in the mold. The action of the rod is selected by the purchaser and is tailored at the dealer's showroom by applying a measured electrical charge to the rod assembly. In a sense, it uses the same principle as inducing magnetism into an iron bar by applying electricity, and the intensity and duration of this electrical current determines the linear elasticity (i.e., action) of the rod material. Of course, should it become uncomfortable or inappropriate for the species of fish being pursued, that action can be re-set at any time using the same method.

Your bait-casting reels have come a long way from those you started out fishing with years ago. A small lithium battery and a microchip form a `brain' to precisely control the pre-set casting tension on the spool shaft, totally precluding any annoying mechanical adjustment slippages. Additionally, the drag setting is electronically measured and controlled, virtually eliminating the initial friction and inertia factors (which normally cause most line breakage) found in the old mechanical drag mechanisms. The reels have become lighter and stronger, as more space-age materials have come into use. One of the better improvements is the totally sealed gear and bearing housings which, coupled with oil-impregnated or rarefied carbon/graphite materials, eliminates wear and most of the cleaning and lubrication requirements. The spool axles are no longer found to be within ball bearings or other friction-producing mounting devices. Instead, they ride on air within the center of a circular magnetic field. What resemble the old ball bearing or graphite bushings of yesterday's reels are actually small, circular magnets, with enough strength to hold the spool axles positioned in the center of a small opening in the magnet body.

With the introduction of a new design concept, spinning reels have finally gotten away from the nemesis of bail-spring breakage. Whereas the old style bail-springs were of a `tension' design (i.e., a metal wire stretched to near the point of permanent deformity or breakage), today's components are more aptly termed `compression springs'. The compression spring is a fine coil of wire, similar in appearance to the spring found in a ballpoint pen, and will cycle millions of times without failure.

The clumsy bail system has also undergone a radical change for the better. Now, instead of swiveling backwards and forward over the face of the reel, the short, straight-arm `bail' assembly and its line roller guide simply retract into the reel body.

Your new fishing lines are certainly a marvel of technology, coupling added strength with near-perfect limpness. In fact, the limpness factor was developed so far that a loose section of line had a tendency to tangle like sewing thread, resulting in some degree of stiffness actually being engineered back into the materials. And, using a principle similar to the surface tension strength of water, the exterior surface of the line's man-made material was made extremely abrasion resistant and given significantly increased knot strength. Line deterioration due to heat and direct sunlight (ultraviolet radiation) has been eliminated by the addition of a stabilizing ingredient developed for the protection of space station viewing ports during their long-term exposures to both.

Space technology has also made micro-thin lines possible by the development of a process that perfectly aligns the molecules of the line along its length axis. First accomplished in a weightless environment and now duplicated on Earth, this alignment provides even stress and stretch distributions, eliminates intermittent weak points and improves overall strength.

Remember when plastic worms came in a `zillion' colors? Today, there are a lot fewer, as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) restricted the use of certain dye pigments. This, in conjunction with the EPA decree that the worms be made of biodegradable materials, has cleaned up the waters substantially.

Uh-oh, time to stop all this daydreaming. It's our turn to launch and we'd better hurry; we've only got a little more than two hours of our fishing allotment left.

***********************************************************************

Oft times, daydreams are closer to reality than we may realize. In the case of the above scenario, the myriad of restrictions and regulated agendas could well be a true vision of the future. Normally, regulation by Government decree is a result of the overloading of a situation/ resource and the requirement to restore order and control. In the case of our story, this is represented by the crowded waters and the decline of the fish populations. Whether you and I agree with the scenario or not is really immaterial. We have only to look around us and see ever-increasing `regulatory creep' in every facet of the outdoors. Duck hunting has all but disappeared as a sport and fishing is being given some serious study in some locales. In both cases, we see the same two common denominators at work--the loss of habitat resulting in the dwindling supply of fish and game; and, more participants in competition for that dwindling supply of fish and game.

In many cases, the Government will call for study after study to try and determine the cause of a fishery problem and a solution. However, Government is inherently inefficient and is nearly incapable of coming to an agreement on any issue containing controversy. The biologists will insist on action right now, while the politician (who controls the dollars) says he must have more proof. It becomes a `who's in charge' question, the answer to which may be `no one'.

The potential phosphate-induced death of Lake Okeechobee is the most glaring example that Sunshine State anglers have to contend with today. Special interest groups have stymied positive actions on the issue (save a multitude of studies, all with virtually the same findings) for years and, although some progress may be forthcoming, we still cannot see the day Okeechobee will be out of danger.

Increased licenses and fees are an absolute certainty. And, the increasing number of anglers and problems with water and habitat qualities certainly insure more laws and regulations. I can really see no solution to the potential angling restrictions of the future, save that the sportsmen significantly assist in `fixing' the problems through the active support of private and Governmental habitat restoration programs and clean water projects. And, by active support, we also mean that we demand that Government projects are aggressively carried out. That is our right as taxpayers. Politics is basically a `reactive' process, attempting to correct a problem after-the-fact in order to gain votes from the recipients of the political `good deed'. Remember, the first rule of successful politics is to be re-elected. From the day they win office, that is the ONLY driving goal of their term. Accordingly, politicians respond best to large, well-organized groups who demand action in return for their promise of a vote.

We will certainly lose if we wait for `Joe' to take care of the problems, because chances are exceptionally good that Joe is waiting on us. If we desire to preserve our Florida waters and sport fishing for the year 2000, then your voice and mine must be heard, along with millions of others.



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