By Doug Leier, North Dakota Game and Fish biologist

Keep ND Clean sign

My fishing trips are hard to ruin, even if the “catching” variable is not holding up its end of the equation.

But if there’s one thing that casts a negative shadow even before I put a worm on a hook, it’s the sight of trash at parking lots, fishing piers or boat landings.By Doug Leier

Nothing turns me off more than seeing cans or wrappers stuck in the weeds along a shoreline or floating by in the water.

I just don’t get it. In this day and age, it’s hard for me to understand how someone can purposely leave behind the remains of their lunch or refreshments. Our water recreation areas are for all of us, and litter at the very least takes away from the outdoor experience, and at its worst can be dangerous to people and wildlife.

It’s especially discouraging to me when I see a discarded bait container, as you would expect anglers and hunters to have a more heightened responsibility toward keeping the outdoors clean.

That said, I’ll be honest and admit to having an empty plastic nightcrawler container blow off a pier or shoreline, and no doubt over the course of years I may have left something behind inadvertently. On the other hand, over the years I’ve filled up many trash cans just picking up litter left behind by others.

Personally, even though I fish some pretty obscure waters, and like to get away from the crowds, I’d rather fish shoulder to shoulder along a clean shoreline than set up shop in solitude in an area where there’s evidence of what someone else had for lunch or what they were using for bait.

It’s pretty elementary to ask people to pick up their trash. Many agencies and organizations have worked for decades to spread that message, and the campaign continues.

If you’re like me and inclined to leave places a little better than they were found, it’s always a good idea to have a pair of rubber gloves packed along with sunscreen and mosquito repellent. A spare garbage bag is also a good idea if there are no trash cans in the vicinity.

If you encounter something that doesn’t look right, or would present a danger to try to handle, don’t put yourself in harm’s way. Make a note of the location and report it to a local agency. Who knows what kind of chemistry experiments have been taking place, and it’s best not to risk cutting yourself or touching what could be some type of hazardous material.

But for the usual junk, a thick garbage bag with the right gloves is usually enough to keep your hands clean and safe while taking care of someone else’s littering.

And because my outdoor enjoyment is enhanced by a clean spot from which to cast, I know the next family to find their way to that area might feel the same way.

Leier is a biologist with the Game and Fish Department. His email is

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