In “Lonesome Dove”, retired Texas Ranger Captain Woodrow Call’s character, played by Tommie Lee Jones, said it best: “I hate rudeness in a man.” That was as he walked away from bashing an insolent guy over the head with what looked like a piece of rebar.
Although I’m not encouraging that kind of conduct, many of us have probably been in situations where his words would have applied. Possibly some of you readers have been on or around water bodies when rudeness abounded. I sure have.
And it does seem to happen pretty often when someone ignorant of on-the-water etiquette gets a new boat and begins turning gasoline into noise and waves. Ignorance may be no excuse of the law, but it helps explain some conduct. It doesn’t justify it, but it at least presents a means to correcting it.
Educating an inconsiderate bevy of boaters about etiquette and ethics in a gentlemanly way without coming on like they are telling others how to behave is what a new organization called FlatsWorthy is founded upon.
I say, “new organization”, but FlatsWorthy was created in 2015 by concerned anglers led by fly-fishing guide, Chuck Naiser, to do something about the rudeness among boaters. The name came from being worthy -- by respect and actions -- of the blessing of being able to spend time on the inland bays of flat, shallow water teeming with fish.
So, what kind of actions provoked creation of this association? It possibly started with some air boaters’ misdeeds, although airboats, like guns, don’t do bad things by themselves. And FlatsWorthy made it clear from the beginning that its intent was not to try to tell airboat skippers how to behave or abolish their ability to operate.
Instead, FW, as I’ll call it here, merely asked that everybody behave responsibly. The goal was to find common ground and join forces to keep peace on the water and conserve the environment. Its Code of Angler Respect had three tenets: Respect Fellow Anglers; Respect the Resource; and Respect the Law.
One of the first actions that shined light on questionable activity was a passageway cut across a grassy area of the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. A boat of some kind powered across grass to get to the other side. That was endangered whooping crane wintering habitat; boating across it was probably illegal and certainly unacceptable. Other boats followed until an open waterway was carved.
After discussions with refuge leadership, FW volunteers met one morning, filled sandbags, ferried them to the unauthorized passageway and blocked it. Several airboat operators assisted. Other activities were planned on the refuge, but Hurricane Harvey interrupted everything. Survival and then reconstruction took precedence.
Now, FW is back in business, and still concerned with habitat conservation. More must be done to insure the environment’s healthy existence. Prop scarring of seagrass still happens, though illegal. It’s also a crime to harass hunters or anglers.
Collaboration with coastal environmental agencies and TPWD has expanded FlatsWorthy’s profile and outreach.
John Jefferson is a lifelong outdoorsman, former regulations coordinator at Texas Parks and Wildlife Dept., past executive director of the Texas Chapter of The Wildlife Society, and author of two books on Texas hunting.