Each year, almost 300 bass tournaments take place on Maine’s inland waters between April and November. Each tournament brings a different level of competition, varying prize amounts, and anglers from all over the country.

Many bass clubs, such as the Man vs. Bass Maine Trail, not only run tournaments for club members, but also participate in programs for getting youth involved in fishing. According to the Man vs. Bass Maine Trail tournament director, Corey Vose, the club spends one week each year at the Bryant Pond 4-H camp, teaching kids how to fish and about being good stewards of the lakes. Many other bass clubs in Maine also donate their time to youth fishing and fishing tournaments for disabled veterans.

Fishing on inland waters in Maine brings $319 million each year to the state, according to Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. Protecting Maine’s lakes, rivers and streams is not only important for the fish and wildlife that depend on them, but also for the economic health of the state.

Man vs. Bass Maine Trail considers protecting the lakes an important part of what they do as a club. Each year the club chooses a conservation director and four representatives to serve as boat inspectors for each tournament. The night before a tournament, members from the club inspect the boat landing to clean up litter or hazards in the parking area. They install monofilament — fishing line — and fishing lure recovery and recycling bins, if one is not already present. The club contacts the local lake association or organization affiliated with that lake to let them know there is an upcoming tournament, and to ask if the organization has the ability to empty the receptacle on a regular basis. If the organization does not have the ability to monitor the receptacle, the club will take it on as one of their responsibilities.

According to Vose, “we try to leave the boat launch area better than we found it.” This year’s Man vs. Bass Maine Trail conservation director is Dustin Barber (also a “weed inspector” and conservation director for Maine Bass Nation). Barber is a fisheries biologist who understands the importance of keeping invasive aquatic species, such as variable-leaf milfoil, out of Maine’s lakes.

According to Vose, “The club understands we are all guests on the lake. They are not owned by any individual or group, but we are all responsible for taking care of the lakes.”

We are in the middle of a busy fishing and boating season on Maine’s lakes and ponds. Whether you are a member of a bass club or take a less competitive approach to fishing, please do your part to keep invasive aquatic species out of Maine’s lakes, rivers, and streams, by inspecting your boat, trailer, and all fishing gear before and after you enjoy one of Maine’s most treasured natural resources.

Toni Pied of Belgrade Regional Conservation Alliance wrote this column on behalf of the Lake Trust, which represents the lake organizations of the seven Belgrade lakes.