By Eric Jackson

How can this be good?

I was debating the validity of fishing as a sport the other day with someone (no names, sorry) and I was sure I had her convinced that fishing was truly a sport and that the top Pros deserved the sponsorship, prize money, and attention that they got for their skills and performance. It is obvious to anyone who fishes competitively, or even recreationally, that skill, more than luck determines how many and how big the fish are that you catch.

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It was the single statement that she said to me that haunted me and gave me the shivers at the time, and has been eating away at me over the past week. She said, “What if all of these fisherman, you included, put the same amount of energy into doing something productive that would help others, instead of such a selfish, destructive activity” (she feels that fishing hurts fish and the environment, which was she meant by destructive).

I have always enjoyed fishing, just as I have always enjoyed whitewater kayaking. I have tried my whole life to always remain open to new ideas, to positions that are contrary to my own, and to avoid the trend of becoming entrenched in my own beliefs without ever questioning them. I did a quick mental calculation of the time I spend each year doing just the two main activities I do when not “working”; kayaking and fishing.

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Last year, alone, I spent about 1,300 hours whitewater kayaking, or driving to a river, outfitting boats, etc.. I also spent about 600 hours fishing. That is 1,900 hours or the equivalent of 47.5 forty hour work weeks of time doing “non-productive” activities.

I have always been a big believer in “quality of life” and “Life Without Compromise” and I have never questioned the time I was spending on whitewater kayaking, as I sell whitewater kayaks and when I go whitewater kayaking I am helping to get people fired up on our boats and, in turn, it helps us sell them. So, I can, and always have argued that my kayaking is part of my job.

My personal technique for deciding if something is “valid”, or “good or bad” is to extrapolate the activity or idea out to the extreme. If doing something once, it is hard to decide if it is good, then I imagine doing that same thing over and over again. If that makes it bad, then it must be bad, in of itself, to some degree.

Fishing…. Casting a lure in hopes that it happens upon a fish that is tricked into thinking that the lure is something worth eating, and then catching the fish, taking a photo of it, and releasing it back into the water. When I realized that I spent 600 hours doing that in the past 12 months, and after talking to my friend, who was trying to “show me” that it was not a good activity, I did a little soul searching.

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I could get my masters degree in 600 hours, I could get my doctrine in 1800 hours. I could do so many more things with my business that I am not doing, etc.. I could volunteer at a non-profit, etc. etc.. 600 hours is what got me. Not to mention the money spent on gear. Rods, reels, lures, line, gas, etc.. That money, just so I can lift a fish out of the water, look at it, and put it back. Yes, it is true that there is some excitement about the “hunt”. There is the bumper sticker that says “A bad day of fishing is better than a good day at work.” That must have been written by somebody that doesn’t like their job, however. What if you like your job, like me?

Corey Rich photographs Jackson family at their home in Rock Island, TN.

OK- getting down to brass tacks. Steve Fisher was scheduled to come to my house today to drive down to Louisiana for the Adventure Kayak Fishing World Championships. We were going for the weekend (another 96 hours away from home/work). Hobie and James also scheduled to come in for this competition. This is four people now doing this, not just me. What could we accomplish if we spent that time doing something productive? It could still be fun, but at least something not as stupid as catching fish,releasing them, and seeing who caught the biggest one?

I am just feeling so bummed that I opened this can of worms. I was excited about my new competitive endeavor; fishing. I just never really thought it through and looked at it from another perspective to realize how dumb it is. Nothing good comes from it; it doesn’t help anyone; and it takes up a lot of time that you never get back.

What do I want to be remembered by when I die, another thing that helps me make life decisions. Jackson Kayak was part of that. I wanted to have a lasting impact on the kayaking world with innovative designs, and a company that my whole family was a part of and really excelled at. That makes perfect sense. Fishing? “Boy, EJ really could catch those fish!” Wow, what a legacy. (I am being sarcastic, of course)

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OK, so what now? Well, we all know I have talked about retiring from freestyle kayaking, and racing, and usually right around this time of year. I still haven’t done that and have trained hard this spring for the USA Team Trials and World Championships already.

However, my overall goal of “leave the world a better place than I found it” is going to need some more direction. Not only is my 600 hours in a year counterproductive, but everyone else who spends time like that fishing is making the world pay a huge “opportunity cost”. What if I replaced my 600 hours with something that was productive and good for the world (fun, too, if possible, of course!) and I helped others replace their 600 (or however much they spend) hours in the same way? NOW, we are making the world a better place!! THAT can be my legacy!

Corey Rich photographs Jackson family at their home in Rock Island, TN.

I hope that this essay you are reading today, right here on www.jacksonkayak.com, is as influential for you, as my single conversation with my friend last week who questioned my fishing. Each of us should look at what we do, that is completely unproductive, that could be replaced with something that isn’t so selfish, and imagine what the world would be like. Each of us can only do so much, but collectively, we could change the world!

Here are my action items for this week:

  1. I am still going to drive to Louisiana, with Steve Fisher to this big fishing event. However, my goal is going to be to get Steve to wake up and see the err in his ways, also, and hopefully the two of us will be on the crusade over the weekend. i will boycott the competition, of course, because I must lead by example. I have my fingers crossed that will be smart, also, and see the light.
  2. I will sell of my fishing equipment and find something worthy to spend that money on that will help others.
  3. I will begin a regular blog, right here on JK.com, as well as on social media that teaches what my friend calls “The Quaker Way”. Not in the sense of the religious aspect, but a way of deciding what is important, and eliminating the rest. I am not sure it is the best name, because there are so many things a Quaker would never do that could be great for the world, like environmental work. I never heard of a Quaker doing that.
  4. Do a real soul searching mission with Kristine and the Kids and find a new direction for us, that is less play, but still fun.
  5. Simplify my life- eliminating the stuff that has no meaning, and are just time wasters.

I am still up in the air on whitewater kayaking. Clearly it is a good workout, and being healthy is important. It is also part of my job. I won’t be making any real changes there yet, because it has been such a big part of my life and it would be rash to drop it.

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My first quarter of 2015 has already come and gone. I have likely spent 100 hours or more fishing already, there is nothing I can do about it. All I can do, is start today, on April 1, 2015 and try to make the world a better place, by eliminating fishing from my life and as many others as I can…

Below are some photos that illustrate just how stupid I look, holding up fish, as if I accomplished something. I have also put in some photos of real people, who have made a real difference in the world, and notice that they are not doing something dumb… What do these photos tell me?

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Hmmm… first off that fishing seems to put a big smile on my face! hmm… that how can you help others be happy and healthy if you are not happy and healthy?

By fishing and buying fishing licenses and paying the 10% excise taxes on equipment, fisherman have funded the Fish and Wildlife Services over the years, which is the single biggest reason for the USA having a healthy fish and wildlife population. Over 15 Million acres of habitat has been purchased by the states with this money to support the habitat and increased the amount of fish and animals in the rivers/lakes of our country that would disappeared like in Mexico and other countries. 80% of the funding for the agencies come from the fisherman and hunters…

I don’t hunt, but perhaps I should do that, too! Wow…. I do want to be a good steward of the environment and the fish and animals!

OK… this April Fools day essay/joke is over. I am going to Louisiana with Steve Fisher, meeting up with my friends James McBeath and Hobie, and we are going to buy our fishing licenses and we are going to catch Redfish, Speckled Trout, and Black Drum and attempt to win the Adventure Kayak Fishing World Championships! I am not sure if the 600 hours/year is enough, now…

But seriously- meaning this part is not April Fools Joke… If you haven’t tried fishing, especially out of a kayak- you need to give it a go! It is fun, and fun is GOOD, especially if it also has some additional benefit to the world. Outdoor activities are critical to society today. Kids NEED to understand how to live outdoors, to appreciate wildlife, to understand fish, birds, animals, if they are going to protect them. A fisherman knows what the effect of pesticide has on bugs, frogs, crawfish, baitfish, and ultimately on gamefish in the lakes and rivers. They monitor the gamefish population and when it seems to decline, they find out why, they talk to the Fish and Game commission, and they help create laws that prevent people from polluting the waters that are so critical. You can’t do that if you are inside, playing video games, or hanging out in a city and haven’t seen or been around animals and fish and in the wild. Get out there, take your kids, remember that mother earth isn’t something you learn about on TV, that you get all fired up about watching the news. Go camping, kayaking, fishing, hunting, and understand the world from a first hand perspective. It is fun, grounding, rewarding, and educational.

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See you on the water! I am going fishing!

:)

EJ

p.s. Here is my last year in review video…. It helps me keep things in perspective..