Thursday, February 22, 2007

Sid Evans, Editor in Chief of Field & Stream: Q&A

This is the second installment in a series of interviews that I'm pulling off of my old fishing site, I interviewed Sid Evans, editor in chief of Field & Stream a while back and this is an excerpt of that conversation.

Sid Evans, Editor in Chief of Field & Stream, may be the most influential person in fishing. Over 1.5 million readers rely on Evans and his staff to provide great stories about fishing from Minnesota to Mongolia.

Evans spoke to from his Manhattan office to talk about what he's accomplished so far.

What are some of the biggest changes you've tried to push through since you started at F&S?

Evans: The magazine is 110 years old. It's the most recognized brand in the outdoors. It's got this incredible history. It's got an incredible amount of talent and always has. A lot of people in the fishing world grew up with [F&S writers] A.J. McClain and Ted Trueblood. When I got here three years ago, one thing I did not want to screw with was the history of the magazine, the quality of the writing, the quality of the how-to information -- the reliability of the content.

But we've also tried to bring a lot more humor into the book and a lot more energy. [F&S] has been the number one magazine in this category for such a long time that I think there was a perception that the magazine was a little bit tired. We've really tried to change that perception.

Fishing isn't tired. There are still millions of Americans out there who are absolutely obsessed with fishing and I want the pages of the magazine to reflect that.

I can just tell you, it's not the book I read in junior high.

Evans: We're trying to do some real journalism here, and not just in terms of covering important topics like conservation or what's happening in Washington. But we're also trying to find stories that are fresh and timely, stuff that's happening on the edge of fishing.

We ran a story in Dec/Jan. about fishing for Mako sharks with a fly rod. That's not brand new, but it hasn't been around that long and it's pretty exciting stuff. And I think people like to know what's going on out there.

Yeah. Fly fishing for sharks out of a kayak...

Evans: It's insane. It's insane, but there are guys out there doing it. I don't think the majority of our readers are going to go out and get a kayak and try to do that. They're smarter than that. But they like to read about it.

There are two types of articles F&S runs, fishing exotic locations versus fishing in your backyard. Which of those is more important to you?

Evans: Most guys want to know how to catch fish where they live. I think that's priority number one. I don't know the exact number of days our guys spend fishing, but if I had to guess I'd say it's over 50 days a year. So they're fishing all the time and they want to know how to catch more bass, trout, walleye; how to catch bigger ones. They're obsessed with the mystery of it, so they can't ever get enough information about how to catch the fish they're after in their area.

But the exotic stuff is fun to read. I think it's fun to tag along on those adventures. I think guys will save up, take maybe one trip per year to an exotic place, if that. But they like to read about it. I know I do, so I base it to some extent on that.

It seems like saltwater fishing has played a bigger role in the magazine lately. I'd seen an article that had suggested that the increased interest in saltwater fishing was due to stocks of stripers and redfish that have rebounded. Would you agree with that assessment?

Evans: I think saltwater fishing is an exploding sport. You look at what's happening on the Eastern Seaboard. The comeback of the striper has been just incredible and people have caught on to that. There are more and more guys out on the water. The redfish along the Gulf Coast have been unbelievable.

There are more fish out there to catch.

What kind of fishing did you do growing up?

Evans: I grew up in the south, fishing for crappie and bass around Memphis Tennessee with a bobber and a minnow. My family started taking family trips out West when I was twelve and that's where I discovered fly fishing and trout fishing -- fishing the Gallatin River in Montana, Yellowstone Park. That was a major discovery for me. Now I live in New York so I love to fish for stripers around the city and up in the Catskills, around the Delaware River.

I love trout fishing and I love the places where you can do it. But I've really flipped out over striper fishing in the last four or five years. It's gotten so good around New York. It's hard to beat catching a ten, twenty pound striper on a fly rod.

What are some of the best fishing articles from your magazine or others that stood out in 2005?

Evans: Chris Chivers' piece on fishing for alligator gar was great. I think the Kirk Deeter piece about fishing for Mako sharks was great as well. I think Sowbelly was a great book. It was about the pursuit of the record largemouth and all of the lunatics who are trying to catch that fish. It's a great book.

When it comes to politics and the outdoors, Field & Stream has to skate a fine line with that. How do you decide when it's too much?

Evans: It's inevitable. Politics do intersect with our sports, hunting and fishing, especially in the realm of conservation. We've been an advocate for conservation since day one of the magazine. Hunters and fishermen were, in a large part, responsible for most of the fish and game laws that were passed in this country.

We're running conservation pieces on a regular basis because it's a fight -- it's a battle to keep our resources. And not everybody is going to agree with you. When you run pieces that are advocating the protection of fish stocks, there's a situation where the commercial industry doesn't agree with everything the sport fishermen have to say.

It gets political and sometimes it rubs people the wrong way. But it's important to address these issues in the magazine and have those debates.

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