Welcome to Sacred Waters. I’m the founder and President Joe Eichelberger and I’d like to give you a little background on why we exist and what we intend to do. But first, a little background...
Those that know me have heard me say time and time again “I care more about these waters and their fish than I do about money.” I say it because that is how I truly feel, and starting this non profit is me doing something about it instead of just talking. I constantly preach about not booking trips during low, warm, lethal water conditions. I’d rather not work than to book a guided trip on overfished water or fish during spawning activity. This is a chance to do what I know is right.
Recreationally and professionally, I have been in this fishing game for a long time. No seriously, I've done it all from fly shop staff, sporting goods staff, buyer, manager, fly tying, casting instruction, guiding, commercial fishing, field testing equipment, writing articles, interviews for articles, photo shoots, filming for movies & TV, and ranch/fisheries management. None of those careers provided me with much sense accomplishment. I don't want to be famous I want to help change the world. What I can say is that I'm happy teaching (guiding), managing fisheries, writing educational newsletters, publishing fishing reports, and enjoy testing & developing quality gear as a pro-staffer/field tester to help make fishing more fun and less work for everyone.
I was raised to believe that making money hunting and fishing were somehow bad, but I justified my guiding knowing that I'm a teacher, and a damn good one. I teach people how to cast, tie knots, properly handle fish. I teach them about fish & insect life-cycles, ecosystems, and water conservation. My family had also stated many concerns about the long term direction of the outdoor industry. They saw declining fishing and hunting opportunities and a downward spiral of ethical standards. High pay-to-play costs, unauthentic high fence ranches and “canned hunts”, big money corporatized tournaments, headwater degradation, over usage and abuse of our public lands. The more outdoor industry jobs I worked, I began watching more and more of my families predictions start to unfold in front of my eyes.
Helping the environment and people have always been more important and rewarding to me than making a six figure salary but let’s keep it real, money is a necessity of life in our society. We considered a private fishing club, with a traditional corporate business model and likely higher profits, but something just didn’t feel right. It didn’t feel true to the core beliefs that my family instilled in me. My family and many close friends fought these private clubs and guide services and they’ve advocated against heavily-stocked, inferior GMO pellethead fisheries. No, the ethics of a club or guide service didn’t appeal to me, and was the total opposite of what direction I wanted to move Sacred Waters in. I could not morally go down that road nor be a hypocrite. Like I’ve always said “I care more about these waters and fishes than I do about having a profit driven organization.”
As the mission and vision of Sacred Waters was coming together, it quickly became clear that the openness and accountability of a non-profit were the only direction for us. I wanted to rule out the greed and compromises that too often come with profit-driven fishing clubs and companies.
In the second part of this introductory series I’ll tell more about how Sacred Waters is going to change up the model.
Since I began to fish in the days before memory and have no consciousness of ever not fishing, the evidence is clear that I was born a fisherman.
Our President Joseph Eichelberger, with 19 years of guiding experience and a long family heritage of responsible outdoorsmanship, brings a unique perspective to our blog as he promotes fishing conservation and education in Pagosa Springs, CO where he's lived since 2009.