Joe SillsWritten by

Short Strikes No. 16

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This week, Short Strikes debates how the Wonders of Wildlife Museum won Best Aquarium in the U.S., ponders if the fight can ever be won against lionfish, and asks the industry how it can raise $1 million for its own future. 

Did anglers win a USA Today poll?

Opened in September, 2017 in a star-studded celebration, the 350,000-square foot Wonders of Wildlife National Museum & Aquarium in Springfield, Missouri, has recently been named the Best Aquarium in America by readers of USA Today. Here’s the Top 10.

  1. Wonders of Wildlife National Museum & Aquarium — Springfield, Missouri
  2. Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies — Gatlinburg, Tennessee
  3. The Florida Aquarium — Tampa, Florida
  4. Dallas World Aquarium — Dallas, Texas
  5. Audubon Aquarium of the Americas — New Orleans, Louisiana
  6. Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada — Toronto, Ontario
  7. Aquarium of the Pacific — Long Beach, California
  8. Georgia Aquarium — Atlanta, Georgia
  9. North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores — Pine Knoll Shores, North Carolina
  10. Vancouver Aquarium — Vancouver, British Columbia

All accounts of the Aquarium that Johnny Built (Wonders of Wildlife) are rave reviews, and aquarium tourism is big business. In 2017, Baltimore reported that its National Aquarium generated $455 million in economic impact. Meanwhile, Chattanooga, Tenn. cited that its aquarium drew in 700,000 annual visitors in 2015. Wonders of Wildlife cannot report a yearly visitor count until September, when it turns one year old.

Short Strikes is no travel expert, but the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums says more than 700 million people travel to zoos and aquariums across the globe each year. And, USA Today says its website received more than 102 million unique visitors in 2017, so there is definite value in the ranking.

The strike: Short Strikes suspects that Bass Pro Shops—the owner of the museum—leveraged a lot of star power to rock the vote. Here’s a list of celebrity social media accounts and powerful brands that asked fans to vote for the museum:

  • Bill Dance
  • Luke Bryan
  • Cabela’s
  • Bassmaster
  • Safari Club International
  • ZONA’s Awesome Fishing Show!
  • Mark Wahlberg
  • Bass Pro Shops
  • Big Cedar Lodge
  • Ott DeFoe
  • Tony Vandemore
  • The Sportsman’s Channel
  • Bristol Motor Speedway
  • Florida Sportsman Magazine
  • Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation

Bryan’s and Wahlberg’s Facebook posts alone accounted for more than 20,000 “likes.” You can bet that at least some of those people went on to vote, and you can bet that no other aquarium in the country had a social media presence anywhere near that impact. The most engaging post about the runner-up clocked in with just 3,500 Facebook “likes.”

If you think the fishing industry isn’t influential, think again.

The lionfish, the witch, and the wardrobe

As wild monkeys riddled with herpes establish colonies in the Sunshine State (more on that later), The Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is kicking off its annual Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day. That takes place the first Saturday after Mother’s Day each year.

FWC is scheduled to host 17 lionfish derbies this year, ranging from Sarasota to Pensacola, and Key Largo to Jacksonville. If you’re looking at a map, that’s a safe confirmation that both the Gulf Coast and the Atlantic are inundated with the invasive fish.

The strike: Are the derbies doing any good? In 2017, REEF—an organization overseeing five of the state’s remaining derbies this year—reported a total catch of just over 21,000 lionfish. That’s a huge number and a symbolic stand. However, according to NOAA and the USGS, the lionfish invasion is unlikely to ever be reversed. In other words, they are here to stay. The fish have, after all, made it all the way to Texas and Rhode Island. 21,000 in a sea of millions? That’s not so much.

If there is hope for controlling the lionfish, it lies in the greed of our own species. Humans, as we know, are adept at destroying ecosystems. Just as the dodo bird was eaten to extinction, and the uncountable numbers of bison were brought to the brink by railroad spikes and guns, the lionfish might also be tamed. The fish has become an increasingly popular dinner dish, and FWC is currently running a reward system of $50 per half-dozen for spear fishermen. Though, it should be noted that the system is convoluted and confusing.

Will the industry raise $1 million for fishing?

This week, KastKing announced a program to donate up to $1 million to fishing organizations this year. KastKing has teamed up with Trout Unlimited, Bullsugar, Keep ‘Em Wet, the Association of Northwest Steelheaders, Anglers of Honor, Freedom Fighters Outdoors, Heroes on the Water, Lincoln Hill Cares, and the Future Fisherman Foundation. Combined, these groups create angling opportunities for youth and veterans, as well as conservation and habitat restoration efforts across the country. It’s a diverse group of organizations that every angler should be able to find a worthy cause amongst.

The strike: One million people will need to participate. KastKing is donating one dollar per entry. Entries are free, although participation requires a recent (April 2018 or newer) photo or video with a KastKing product. Still, the program is an opportunity for retailers to raise some serious bucks for the future of fishing—and that’s a prospect every store should get behind.

More info at KastKing.com/1millionrally. Let’s get to it.

Joe Sills Hi there, did you know? Each week, we curate a list of the Top 5 stories in fishing and send them right to your inbox. Reading Tackle’s Top 5 is one of the best ways to become or remain an industry expert. -Joe Sills, Digital Editor

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