Highland Haven fisherman William Fowler strolls along Dove Park’s concrete dock in Lake LBJ, net in hand and looking for something to scoop up from the water. A few fish dart away, seeking shelter in slightly deeper water. They need not hide. Fowler isn’t looking for dinner; he’s fishing for trash.
When he’s not on the job, the 36-year-old contract worker for the Highland Haven Homeowners Association is a fixture in the lakeside community’s parks. About three times a week, he hauls his metal trailer loaded with two trash cans and a long-handled net to one of the parks, where he scours the shoreline looking for things that don’t belong there. Most people refer to it as trash, and Fowler agrees that a lot of what he finds is just that. He picks it up anyway, putting it on the trailer to sort at home. Among the trash, Fowler always finds a few treasures.
“I throw some of it away,” he said. “I recycle a lot. I do what I can.”
Now a devoted trash angler, Fowler started out simply enough, occasionally cleaning up some of the parks in Highland Haven. The part-time community effort swung into full gear following the October 2018 flood that ravaged the Highland Lakes.
He created a Facebook group, Trash Environmental Fishing, which has hooked more than 370 members. Several are quite active, regularly retrieving items from area lakes and posting photos of their catches on the group’s page.
Inside his garage, Fowler has several containers full of items he’s fished from Lake LBJ, and some from Lake Marble Falls. One plastic bucket overflows with sunglasses. A bigger container is stuffed with flying discs. A smaller bucket is packed with fishing bobbers and floats, while next to it is a container jammed with sports balls of all types.
That’s just a sampling of what he’s found over the past couple of years since becoming a serious trash angler.
On this particular October day at Dove Park, Fowler, like other anglers who don’t get a nibble, considers changing spots.
“Maybe I’ll check the other parks,” he said as he continued to peer into the waters net in hand. There’s always hope in “just one more cast.”
To help keep area lakes clean and discover what people find, check out the Trash Environmental Fishing Facebook group page.
DANGEROUS WATERS: Impact of trash on wildlife
Trash, especially plastic, poses a serious threat to all bodies of water, including lakes. Not only is it unsightly, it harms wildlife through ingestion, destruction of habitat, and contamination.
- Habitat: Accumulated trash in rivers and lakes disrupts habitat and depletes oxygen levels in the water. The water slowly loses the ability to sustain life.
- Chemical: Plastics absorb chemicals and, when submerged in water, can release toxic contaminants such as PCBs and pesticides. As plastic breaks down into smaller particles, it transfers even more toxins into fish, birds, and other organisms.
- Ingestion: When eaten by wildlife, plastic can cause internal and external wounds. It can also block the digestive system, leading to starvation, reduced mobility, and fatal illness.