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So today is World Water Day and it got me to thinking; having the Shenandoah River so close to me is both a blessing and a curse.  A blessing in that I have so much history at my fingertips, I have some of the best smallmouth fishing in the world right out my back door (literally) and wide vistas of the Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains just minutes

North Fork of the Shenandoah near Strasburg, Virginia

away to calm my nerves and sooth my soul.  It’s gotten to the point where I really do think of the Shenandoah as ‘my’ river.  But recently she’s been a heartbreaker with our pollution and runoff problems that have caused fish die-offs, algae blooms, and has been a source of degradation for the Chesapeake Bay.  It’s caused me to get involved with the Shenandoah and Potomac Riverkeeper organizations and spend a lot of time looking down into the water, instead of fishing from it and taking photos to document our sick fish and our runoff problems, algae blooms, and destruction of riparian areas and misuse of land in our watersheds. But after 7 years of hard work by  our RiverKeepers  Jeff Kelble and Ed Merrifield down on the Potomac,  the Shenandoah is on its way back to becoming the world class fishery it once was. New regulations governing fertilizer application, development, and agricultural land use has played a big part in getting this turned around. It didn’t happen overnight, and it’s not over yet. It took a lot of effort on Jeff’s and lot of other dedicated folks to help turn the situation around. Even now, and especially this time of year, as the water warms up and becomes more hospitable to bacteria and viruses,  those us who help Jeff Kelble keep an eye on our beloved ‘Doah become more vigilant…and nervous.

My point is to remind you to not take our (your) waters for granted. You may have the best fishing in the world right now, but it can be gone in just a couple of year’s time. I know…I saw it happen in the Shenandoah Valley.  If you have not done so already, find out who is most active in conservation efforts on your home water. Do you have a Riverkeeper or an organization such as the National Committee for the New River that takes care of the New River

South Fork of the Shenandoah near Luray, Virginia

 through the 3 states it flows through? How about a “Friends of the – (insert your favorite river or Lake here)?  How about non-profits that are working to improve things like our own Beau Morgan and his ‘Earth Korps’ here in the Shenandoah Valley? How about local fishing clubs? Do they have a conservation officer or projects they undertake that help keep your rivers and lakes in good condition?

Then it’s time to seek them out, contact them,  and get involved.

Be a volunteer at the next stream cleanup. Become a member of you RiverKeeper’s organization, join your local Izaak Walton League. I do all three, and also serve as the Potomac River Smallmouth Club’s Conservation Chairman. I’ve made it a point to personally get to know my regional Virginia Dept of Game and Inland Fisheries Biologist. What’s pretty awesome is:  if you bother to do this, these folks, knowing you care about the resource and are involved in actively trying to help protect it, they will personally answer your email when you have a question or send them a photo you took to point out something you saw that didn’t “look right”. They know better than anyone, that fishermen and paddlers  are their eyes when they can’t be there personally. And let’s face it. In these days of tight and even dwindling state resources, our DNRs, DEQs  and wildlife and fisheries management people are NOT getting any extra help in the form of people or money. Go ahead and get involved, you’ll be glad you did and it’ll give you another reason to get out there!