Sharon Rushton has always been one of my heroes. I also knew she was a hero to millions of fisherpersons, only they didn't realize it.
Now they will.
Sharon has been selected for "Enshrinement" in the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame... the highest honor the organization can bestow. It is reserved for people who have made a lifetime commitment on behalf of fishermen and fishing.
Sharon's "lifetime" almost ran out. I wrote HERE about my longtime friend and former co-worker last year when she returned to the professional fishing ranks after battling back from Stage 3 Ovarian Cancer. At that time she told me, ""A lot of people with cancer worry about it coming back and about dying," she said. "I don't worry about it. I just go fish."
That pretty much sums up Sharon's personal philosophy. But her lifetime of professional work on behalf of fishermen and fishing is what earned her the most recent prestigious honor.
The National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame announcement reads as follows:
Sharon Rushton has made significant contributions to fresh water fishing throughout her career, using her leadership and communication skills. Her work has touched youth and families throughout the U.S. Most of her life has been dedicated to promoting the outdoors, particularly fishing and developing programs which introduce people to fishing.
Sharon is probably most well known as the founding executive director for the Future Fisherman Foundation®.
Highlights of her contributions as founding executive director of the Future Fisherman Foundation include:
Hired as the founding executive director by Tom Bedell, president of Berkley, the company and individual that originally funded and founded the Future Fisherman Foundation. Rushton developed the Foundation into a national organization that promoted fishing education, recruitment and retention.
Helped to establish sport fishing and aquatic resource education programs in the state fish and wildlife agencies throughout the country.
Developed, enhanced and administered the Hooked on Fishing – Not on Drugs program – an award winning program that combines drug prevention, environmental education and fishing into a powerful package.
Initiated and supervised the development of the National 4-H Sport Fishing Program. She also wrote several lesson plans for the program and taught several years at the National 4-H Sport Fishing Program’s week-long training of trainers.
Co-wrote Fishing Fun for Kids which has sold over two million copies. This booklet has been featured on the side of a cereal box.
As part of a committee, Sharon helped to establish the first Aquatic Resource Education conferences and encouraged the development of the Aquatic Resource Education Association (AREA).
I am proud to know greatness
Will Rogers said, "We can't all be heroes, because somebody has to sit on the curb and clap as they go by."
Be sure and clap if you ever see Sharon Rushton go by.
Below are others who will be honored by the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame in 2011:
Elected for 2011 Enshrinement
Considered are persons who have made a lasting National or World impact to the benefit of fresh water sportfishing.
Richard O. Anderson – Michigan/Texas
As Leader of the Coop Fishery Unit, Richard and his graduate students (at the University of Michigan) conducted research on fish population dynamics in ponds and reservoirs. He actively promoted a change in the goal of fishery management from the traditional maximization of harvest to one of optimizing yields and benefits. Richard recognized over harvest of largemouth bass and other game fish as a primary challenge for fishery managers. Based on the results of his original research with a slot length limit, he promoted more protective size limits to improve and sustain the biological integrity (balance) of fish populations and communities and the quality of fishing. Proportional Size Distribution (PSD) and relative weight (Wr) are indices he developed and promoted for fishery managers to recognize problems and opportunities and establish measurable management objectives. Richard taught his new approaches at workshops in 21 states and provinces between 1977 and 1983.
Robert J. Behnke, Ph.D. - Colorado
The Robert J. Behnke papers include a vast array of created and collected material representing his many years as a consultant with experts, students and interested parties on his specialty of studying the trout and samonid families of fishes. The first series of the collection consists of general research topical files containing information about genetics, water conditions (limnology), management of fisheries and conservation challenges for fish populations, on the locations of many species of fishes around the world with concentration on the Northwest regions of the U.S. and research about the various specific species within his specialty. The second series consists of focused research, based on Behnke’s work, directly related to his publications, teaching and consulting work. These topical files pertain to published and unpublished books and papers, professional and personal correspondence, reprinted articles of a wide variety of studies, drafts of manuscripts, photocopied or original articles and newspaper clippings, legal papers related to his consulting work with fishery and water issues, reports and studies by universities, fish and wildlife agencies and other related groups. Robert participated in a symposia on fishes and retained student papers and theses of interest to him. Also present are materials from his teaching classes in various aspects of fish species and environment. There are photos, maps, diagrams for use in published works, memorabilia and papers related to organizations and societies for which he had membership.
Paul Brouha - Vermont
Paul began his career as a fish manager in Wisconsin in 1974. The U.S. Forest Service’s (USFS) recognition of the need to develop a recreational fishing policy required aquatic/fisheries expertise. Paul joined the USFS, attracted by this exciting new aquatic resource direction. Paul left Wisconsin for a staff biologist position at the Shasta –Trinity National Forest in California. Later he became Northern Regional Fisheries Program Manager. He was next promoted to National Fisheries Program Manager in the USFS headquarters in Washington, DC, the top fisheries job with the USFS. Here Paul emerged as a national leader, building support for and institutionalizing a fisheries/aquatic habitat program in the Forest Service’s 155 national forests across the country. Paul’s thrust was to underpin this program with science with the focus on habitat protection and improvement. Paul was an early champion of using economics of both commercial (salmon) and recreational fishing in successfully making the case to U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Congress to adequately fund fish habitat management and access to fishing in the national forests. Paul lead a coalition of state and national fisheries leaders who crafted the foundation for the Forest Service’s “Rise to the Future” fisheries program, that by 1992 grew to exceed $40 million staffed by over 300 professional fisheries biologists. Nationally recognized for his leadership skills and success, Paul was selected as the Deputy Director of the American Fisheries Society (AFS) and shortly promoted to Director following Carl Sullivan’s retirement (Note: Carl Sullivan is Enshrined). Paul’s leadership at the AFS had a profound and lasting impact on this major international fisheries professional society.
Dr. Robert B. Ditton - Texas
During Robert’s long successful career, he taught a number of classes at the graduate level focusing on Human Dimensions of Fisheries and Outdoor Management. He advised a large number of graduate students and was respected by all who worked with him. He served in many editorial positions for numerous scientific journal publications including but not limited to North American Journal of Fisheries Management, Fisheries, Society and Natural Resources, Journal of Human Dimension of Fish and Wildlife Management, Leisure Sciences (Editor-in-Chief), Coastal Zone Management Journal and the Journal of Leisure Research. He co-wrote 3 books and hundreds of journal articles and papers in his field of expertise. Robert was affiliated with a number of professional organizations including American Fisheries Society, Texas Chapter-American Fisheries Society, National Recreation and Park Association, Society for Park and Recreation Educators and the AFS Committee on the Human Dimensions of Recreational Fisheries.
Robert was part of many projects in Norway, Mexico, Canada, Australia, Italy, Hungary, Jordan, Guatemala, Finland, Ireland, Dominican Republic, Portugal, Korea, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador and more. One of his greatest honors was teaching classes in Wuhan, China and South Korea.
Robert retired in September 2007 as Professor Emeritus in Wildlife & Fisheries Sciences and Recreation, Park and Tourism Sciences.
Elected for 2011 Legendary Angler
Considered are persons who have had at least regional lasting impact benefiting fresh water sportfishing.
Nick Adams - Minnesota
Nick has helped many anglers and organizations through his hard work and dedication to the sport of fishing. Al and Ron Lindner, Gary Roach, Spence Petros, Ted Capra and Randy Amenrud (Hall of Famers all) owe a debt of gratitude to Nick for his guidance. Nick has been one of those key individuals who has never sought recognition for himself, always others. He has been the driving force for innovation within the tackle industry and in fishing techniques. Nick has several fishing oriented patents under his name as the inventor. Lindy Fishing Tackle (Nick as president) was one of the founding sponsors of the Manufacturer’s Walleye Council (MWC). Nick Adams is a mountain of a man within the fishing industry and will always be remembered as a good hearted, family man and a tremendous contributor to the outdoors.
Dave Genz – Minnesota
Back in the 1950’s ice fishing was mainly a sport where stationary shelters were placed on the ice. Dave’s father was revolutionary in his approach utilizing a modified camper to move from hotspot to hotspot. The seeds of innovation were sowed at an early age.
As Dave became more adept at ice fishing, he realized that mobility was the key to finding schools of active fish. In the mid 1970’s he designed his winter fishing concepts around portable shelters, using sonar to locate fish and sensitive rods designed for ice fishing. He dubbed his concept: The Winter Fishing System. The Winter Fishing System spawned the Fish Trap portable fishing shelter, the Blue Box sonar holder and power source and many other innovative products.
The results of Dave’s ceaseless promotion of the Winter Fishing System has resulted in a huge number of ice anglers adopting this style of winter angling. Just look out on the ice today and you will see scores of portable ice shelters, with anglers peering at their sonar’s and using lures that are designed just for ice fishing. His relentless promotions, from the Dakotas to the far eastern reaches of the ice belt, have greatly increased the appreciation for the sport of ice fishing.
Anthony (Tony) Portincaso - Illinois
Tony was a pioneer in advancing sportfishing. He was an educator who helped thousands learn and enjoy the art of sportfishing. He conducted fishing classes for years in the Chicago area. Tony was one of the inventors of the standup jig. He was unselfish in aiding anyone who asked for advice, including waters to fish. Those who never had the chance to meet Tony, learned valuable knowledge about sportfishing through his numerous articles in Fishing Facts and In-Fisherman magazines. Tony was a frequent guest on WGN radio, speaking about sportfishing and educating the public on technique and waters to fish. Tony had a television show on ESPN called the “Outdoor Writers.” Tony loved sportfishing and all people who fished.
Kevin VanDam - Michigan
In the world of professional bass fishing, Kevin VanDam is at the pinnacle and is one the best in the world.
Kevin is the complete package. He’s a fierce competitor (with multiple championships), a tremendous ambassador to the sport and a family man.
Professional bass fishing has risen to the major sports level in recent years, with nationally televised regional and national championships.
As such, Kevin was honored with the first-ever Outdoorsman of the Year ESPY at ESPN’s televised awards program in 2002.
As the all-time money winner on the Bassmaster Tournament trail, Kevin has earned more than $4.1 million into 2010. He has captured three Bassmaster Classic titles (2001, 2005, 2010) and five Toyota Tundra Angler of the Year titles (1992, 1996, 1999, 2008 and 2009).
The Bassmaster Classic title is one of the most coveted in bass fishing. The Classic attracts the best anglers in the world. Kevin has earned berths in 20 consecutive Classics since he turned full-time pro in 1992. This is the longest running Classic qualification streak of any active pro.
Elected for 2011 Legendary Artist
Considered are persons whose creations introduce, encourage or inspire the enjoyment of fresh water fishing on a local, regional or national level.
No selections for 2011
Elected for 2011 Legendary Communicator
Considered are persons who have developed a unique communication means or avenue, which was instrumental in introducing fishing to the public or in maintaining public interests or awareness.
Mark Fisher - Minnesota
Mark has been a professional tournament angler for well over 30 years and even won the prestigious U. S. Invitational Bass Tournament in the early 1980’s. Mark has been a tireless speaker to fishing clubs and on the sport show seminar circuit. Mark is currently a host on many television shows and radio broadcasts. Mark is a prolific writer whose by-line appears in many regional and national publications. Mark is the current Director of Field Promotions for Rapala/VMC. It is safe to say Mark has brought the sport of fishing to millions of people over the years. Mark has truly given much more to our sport than he has taken from it.
Mike Jackson - Illinois
For more than 45 years Mike Jackson, has been directly involved in print and broadcast journalism relating to the out-of-doors. He started with outdoor reports on his radio broadcasts in Ohio in the 1960’s. He then went to northern Indiana where he aired a daily outdoor show, as well as producing numerous outdoor television features.
In 1986 Jackson moved to Chicago and his “Mike Jackson Outdoors” radio show began in that market. His weekly show which airs Sundays on 1240 AM at 6-7 am is also simulcast on a coast to coast network system, called the National Radio Network. At the present time the show garners almost 2 million listeners.
Also in 1986, Mike started writing for the Daily Herald newspaper, one of the big three in the Chicagoland market. His weekly outdoor column is seen by over 200,000 readers.
Besides communicating to the public through his columns and radio show, Mike has written for Fin and Feathers, Sports and Recreation, Peterson’s Outdoor News, Fishing News, Pro Angler, Hoosier Outdoors and Michiana Outdoors.
Elected for 2011 Legendary Guide
Considered are persons who have gained by their expertise and professionalism, a status of credibility and immortality judged so by their customers and/or their peers.
Todd Gessner - Illinois
Todd Gessner has been a crappie fishing guide for nearly 30 years on Rend Lake in southern Illinois. He also guides for crappies and other species of fish in many other southern Illinois lakes such as Lake of Egypt, Kinkaid and more. Gessner’s passion for fishing goes beyond guiding. Todd is a well respected seminar speaker and enjoys teaching people how to catch crappie. During his seminars he puts emphasis on getting young people involved in fishing, as he truly believes that the future in fishing is with the youth of today. Todd has also devoted his life to the improvement of the crappie fishery at Rend Lake by working the Illinois Department of Natural Resources in the construction and placement of artificial habitat for crappie. Over the years he has helped place dozens upon dozens of habitat structures in Rend Lake.
Chris Kuduk - Minnesota
Chris Kuduk was born and raised in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota. He grew up fishing the Mississippi River with his father. From the time he could hold a fishing rod Chris would tag along with his dad to the river bank and fish for whatever was biting. When not relying on the river for fish, the pair would travel to Lake Mille Lacs. As Chris grew, so did the amount of trips he would take to this walleye factory in central Minnesota.
By 1978 Chris became a full-time launch captain and small-boat guide out of Westshore Resort on Lake Mille Lacs.
Chris doesn’t guide only during the open-water period, he also takes clients out during the hard-water season on a regular basis.
Chris has been featured in many outdoor publications by many of the region’s top outdoor communicators.
Chris is a regular contributor to outdoor talk radio and television throughout Minnesota.
Bill Sandy – Minnesota
Bill started guiding when he was 9-years old. By the time he was ten, he was full time when he wasn’t in school. After high school graduation he guided virtually every day of the season for his father, who owned Monument Bay Resort (Lake of the Woods).
Bill’s musky-catching numbers are unbelievable to most, unless you’ve fished with him.
His musky-catching feats and knowledge of the sprawling Lake of the Woods are hard to believe. Coming back to camp from far distances after dark while weaving through islands is a site to see. Most of the time that’s what you do when fishing with him…fish until the last minute. Bill is by far the most hard core musky angler to ever ply his trade on Lake of the Woods. He is built like a nose guard and when you shake hands with him it’s like grabbing a three pound ham.
Bill is not only an advocate of catch and release, but also the proper handling of muskies. Most muskies coming to his boat are released without being netted. Bill usually reaches over with a very long-nosed pliers and twists the hook free or may quickly cut them with a bolt cutter.
Bill’s ultimate goal is to catch the world record musky. He is always geared to land such a fish. Heavy rods, light salt water reels, 175-pound test wire leaders and big lures with razor-sharp large hooks are standard in his boat.
Bill is a man of few words and not into self-aggrandizement.
Thomas B. Swanson - Wisconsin
In June of 1952 Tom Swanson began his most excellent fishing adventure by catching his first legal muskie. When he was ten he started guiding at his parents resort on White Sand Lake, east of Boulder Junction.
Tom’s career has spanned over 40 years. Fishing has evolved significantly over this period. Much of Tom’s success is due to his ability to adapt.
In the 1950’s and 1960’s many guides, including Tom, were shore line fishermen. Tom pioneered the use of electronics in fishing mid-lake structure.
Tom pioneered the transition from guiding in wooden rowboats to fishing from bass boats. In the 1970’s clients began bringing more and bigger equipment. Tom went to a 16-foot High Rider with a 50 hp motor. At that time, Tom was the only guide using a bass boat among the 30 some guides in the Boulder Junction area. Most guides quickly followed his example.
Tom’s career has spanned 5 decades, a time which saw much change in the world of fishing. Over the years he has contributed to these changes with innovation education and service. Tom’s greatest satisfaction continues to be guiding his clients and enhancing their enjoyment of the angling experience.
2011 Organizational/Governmental Award
Considered are organizations or governmental entities, which have demonstrated and/or performed a valuable service or act to benefit fresh water sportfishing within its jurisdiction or the boundaries of its organization whether local, regional or national.
Fargo-Moorhead Chapter of Walleyes Unlimited – North Dakota/Minnesota
FM Walleyes Unlimited, Inc. was founded in 1977 to “promote conservation, sportsmanship and education in respect to walleye fishing.” Under this mission, the members of this organization have forged a positive impact on sportfishing on both a local and regional level by:
Sharing knowledge and a love of the outdoors to our youth, the future stewards of the outdoor sports.
Sharing a passion for the outdoors through events which allow others to experience the sport of fishing.
Donating funds to support fisheries management and lake access in Minnesota and North Dakota.
Publishing a club newsletter to communicate activities, opportunities and information.
Being actively involved in the political process, providing grassroots feedback to policy making officials.
Bringing locally, regionally and nationally recognized speakers to its members and the community.
Providing a platform from which careers in the outdoor sporting industries have been launched.
Kennebec Valley Chapter of Trout Unlimited - Maine
KVCTU is in its 30th year. KVCTU has won the Trout Unlimited national Golden Trout Award, the highest award the national organization gives to its members’ chapters.
Shortly after being organized, a KVCTU member inquired at a meeting about getting a fish passage over the Edwards Dam, the first dam on the Kennebec River in Augusta and at the head of tide. About 20 years later, the dam was removed, opening 26 miles of river to a variety of sea-run fish and improving the habitat for several fresh water species. It was the first dam in the country to be removed over the objections of its owner.
KVCTU members are extremely active in a number of volunteer services: Visiting over a dozen middle and high schools and two colleges teaching all elements of fly fishing (tying, entomology, reading water, etc.) and conservation; Special Olympics; Project Healing Waters at the Togas Veterans Administration Hospital; Maine Department of Transportation at their annual Employee Recognition Day and an annual Ladies Day, where women can learn to fly fish.
The National Fish Habitat Action Plan
The Reservoir Fish Habitat Partnership is a group dedicated to the National Fish Habitat Action Plan. It uses the North American Wetlands Conservation Act as a model in an effort to preserve and restore fisheries habitat through a series of partnerships across the country.
The partnerships include government, industry, local communities and anglers. They represent the types of joint efforts the Hall supports for preserving and restoring fisheries habitats.
The National Fish Habitat Initiative now called the National Fish Habitat Action Plan (NFHAP) is an attempt to conserve (protect, restore, enhance) fresh water, estuarine and marine waterways and fisheries in the United States.
The Action Plan has brought together fisheries professional and other partners with a shared interest in restoring waterways and fisheries in the United States. This partnership is diverse and focused on achieving national awareness and obtaining resources for conserving fish habitats.
Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation (RBFF)
The RBFF uses marketing, outreach and education strategies to grow participation in recreational boating and fishing. Their programs successfully reach out to American customers, creating public awareness and motivation to start and continue fishing and boating. Awareness is generated through consumer marketing strategies such as advertising and public relations and through building partnerships to leverage RBFF’s awareness generating efforts.
The RBFF also works with stakeholders at a grassroots level to convert this consumer awareness into sustaining boating and fishing participation.
Some of their national programs are:
Passport to Fishing and Boating
Take Me Fishing™ National Campaign
National Fishing & Boating Week
2011 Special Recognition Award
Recognizes individuals, groups or organizations for their programs benefiting fresh water angling which clearly are not covered by other recognition categories.
Robert B. Heding - Wisconsin
Bob was employed by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources in the Central Wisconsin Area Fish Habitat Procurement. He was a pioneer and the person most instrumental in acquiring property containing the area’s most delicate and precious cold water trout streams. It was one of his passions. Through his DNR affiliation and strong but quiet demeanor, Bob acquired hundreds of miles of excellent trout stream and thousands of acres of habitat by persuading prospective sellers of their public responsibility to provide for the future. Bob was an excellent ambassador for the state of Wisconsin.
Reservoir Fisheries Habitat Partnership
This organization conducted a seminar on March 16, 2009, in conjunction with the 74th North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference at the Crystal Gateway Marriott, Arlington, Virginia. The workshop sponsors specifically called for a national reservoir fisheries partnership through the national Fish Habitat Initiative and sought to renew the EPA’s Section 314, Clean Lakes Program. The national Fish Habitat Action Plan of 2009 identified “10 Waters to Watch,” a collection of rivers, streams, lakes, watershed systems and shores that will benefit from strategic conservation efforts to protect/restore or enhance their current condition. Special recognition of groups such as the Reservoir Fish Habitat Partnership may encourage other organizations to follow suit and take steps to encourage approval of Fish Habitat Action legislation and to implement ideas in such acts.
Tips-Up for the Troops (A Charity Fishing Tournament for Michigan’s Veterans)
Tips-Up for the Troops is a charity event which benefits combat veterans suffering from a brain injury.
Proceeds go to benefit the Brain Injury Association of Michigan Veterans Program to help our returning combatants with Traumatic Brain Injury by “Creating a Better Future through Education, Advocacy, Research, Support and Prevention.” The Brain Injury Association of Michigan is a 29 year old 501-c-3 State of Michigan chartered, non-profit organization.
Traumatic Brain Injury, or TBI, affect nearly 20% of returning combatants from Iraq and Afghanistan. The Brain Injury Association of Michigan Veterans Program is one of the national leaders in the battle to ensure these brave, young men and women receive the TBI healthcare they deserve.