Environmentalists Irk Angry Anglers

For generations fishermen have cast their nets wherever there's water.

But some environmentalists are seeking to ban all forms of fishing along parts of America's coastlines, angering some anglers.

"We're upset and concerned by the proposals that are there. Those proposals would close about half a million miles of ocean. Yeah, I guess you could say we're mad," Michael Nussman of the American Sportfishing Association said.

Now fishing-friendly politicians have jumped aboard to push the Freedom to Fish Act. The bill, if passed, would make it harder to develop controversial no-fishing zones such as those created off the Florida Keys last year.

Environmentalists said the no-fishing zones were the only barrier preventing certain species from being wiped out by over-fishing.

However, sportsmen disagree, and say fishing is an inalienable right and part of the American way.

Fishing opponents say there's no such thing as a right to fish and call the bill bogus.

"It includes false facts, it includes innuendos, and it places recreational fishing interests above the public interest and above all other uses of the ocean," said Jack Sobel, director of the Ocean Conservancy.

Animal rights groups also oppose the bill, arguing that fishing is cruel.

Stephanie Boyles, a wildlife biologist at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, said, "When they get hooked they feel pain just like a cat or a dog or a duck."

The Freedom to Fish Act will still allow restrictions on fishing, but only as a last resort, a provision that some sportsmen can support.

"We would understand that and support that," Nussman said.

The House Committee on Resources could take up the bill by the end of this month and decide whether the Freedom to Fish Act goes to the full House or gets fried. A similar bill was introduced in the Senate but has not been taken up in the Senate Commerce Committee yet.