Bloomington, Ill. – Two weeks before hundreds of high school
anglers in the state compete in bass fishing sectionals, PETA sent
a letter to the Illinois High School Association asking that the
sport be eliminated.
The IHSA wasn’t commenting on the letter, sent April 5 and
signed by PETA executive Tracy Reiman.
But anglers around the state were quick to react to the missive,
which many called “ridiculous” and “predictable.”
“I’m surprised they waited this long because all they do is
attack then move on when nobody listens,” said Gary Rhodes, a bass
fisherman from Carlyle, site of the IHSA Fishing Championships set
for May 7-8. “Here we finally have a good thing, a sport to get
kids in-volved, and here comes PETA trying to trash it.”
Competitive fishing was sanctioned by the IHSA last year, and
Illinois is considered the first state to implement fishing as a
sport. Last year’s sectionals featured 199 teams from schools up
and down the state. The finals, held at Carlyle Lake, drew national
media and the attention of several other states that are planning
Sectionals leading to the finals are scheduled for April 23 at
19 lakes. As this issue of Illinois Outdoor News went to press, 225
schools had entered.
In her letter to the IHSA, Reiman claimed, “The schools would
never encourage students to maim cats or dogs, so why would they
encourage them to maim fish?”
Dave Gannaway, the IHSA official who led the development and
implementation of the high school fishing championships, did not
have a comment on the letter or PETA’s inferences.
However, supporters of the IHSA say that by taking on the sport
of fishing – and specifically fishing at the high school level at a
time when many in the country are trying to get young people
involved in the outdoors – PETA may have awaken a sleeping
National surveys have revealed that more than 50 million
Americans participate in fishing and spend billions of dollars on
the sport. A recent study showed that the country gained more than
600,000 new anglers in 2009.
“This is going to come back to bite them, so to speak,” Andy
Geyer, a tournament bass angler from Bethalto, predicted.