Growing up on a pond (that drained on overflow to the James River), I began fishing long ago. Fly fishing started in the teens and continues to this day. And today, I have the great fortune to live on the water and see a sliver of the Chesapeake Bay behind the house.
As an angler, it is easy to think of practicing catch-and-release as a primary conservation effort. That is indeed the case. But there is so much more we could do: We quit using fertilizer over a decade ago--our yard looks as good today as ever; we pick up the dog poop; we take kids to volunteer at CBF's Clean the Bay Day; we participate in the CBF's oyster gardening program; when we eat shellfish at home, the shells go directly onto our own "reef" by the dock and not into the trash.
Ten years ago, if you told me I'd see a redfish tail behind my house I would have bet the farm against it. Now I've seen it! The water quality in the Chesapeake is improving, and anglers can help on and off the water.
Practice catch-and-release, but also pick up the poop and eliminate the fertilizer. Get your favorite restaurant to donate shells to restoration projects. Pick up that stray holiday balloon you see on the water. It only takes a minute. We are heading in the right direction, and we need to keep going. Every little bit does make a difference!