We are truly immersed in amazing times. Federal government has assumed an increasingly intrusive role in almost every facet of our private lives. Good or bad; like or not like, it appears that having “Big Brother” as our partner in our everyday life issues, will be an altruistic fact-of-life.
So why not consider what would happen to our fishing experiences in the New World, say in 10 years. Ready to take a hypothetical journey?
The morning dawns on Aug. 5, 2019. It’s a beautiful morning with a hint of a cool breeze induced by the torrid rainfall we experienced the night before. The winds are down and it should be a good day for a fishing trip offshore for you and your buddies.
Your fishing allowance card has one day left for offshore fishing for this fiscal quarter. As everyone knows, you are allowed but three offshore fishing trips per quarter and this, then, will be your last till Oct. 1. You have checked in the FSFC (Federal Sport Fishing Central) online last night and registered your trip and been given control number F46E756W. You knew to add that number to your GPS transmitter on your boat so that you can be tracked by NOAA satellite while you’re underway today.
Your buddies meet you at the dock at 0300. It’s super early but with the environmentally mandated hybrid marine engines producing just under 75 hp it will take you about four hours to make your way to the Pelosi Reef which sits 15 miles offshore. You have a full tank of fuel consisting of ethanol and liquid hydrogen, so there will no need to stop at the marina to top off. You paid $8.25 per gallon for this special EPA approved fuel. You will need 12 gallons for the day’s trip.
As you make your way down the river in the shroud of darkness, the three of you are reviewing your take tickets to see what you might be able to bring home. Two years ago the FSFC introduced the Recreational Fishing Allowance Program. You had to produce records as to your catch for the prior 10 years and then were allowed tickets each of which gave approval for you to catch and take specified number of a given species of fish.
Between the three of you, your allowance today (remaining tickets) are two grouper, four snapper and an amberjack. By the way, the old days of state waters and rules and federal waters and rules are a thing of the past. The Feds have assumed the total control of fishing.
You idle up to the Capri Pass Federal Control Barge and check in. They automatically read your trip control number and ask to see your take tickets. It takes a few minutes as there are several other boats lined up, even at this ungodly hour.
Your running lights cut through the morning darkness as you head west into the Gulf. You’ve been having some problem with your GPS as it occasionally hiccups and produces false readings. You don’t want any problems with your location this morning as it is a serious federal violation to even enter the numerous Marine Protected Areas (Federal No Fishing Zones) that now dot the Gulf. One of the local newspapers reports that 65 percent of the Gulf waters are now MPA’s.
All of a sudden your Satellite Communication Radio goes off with a siren followed by a terse message “Attention Sportfishing Boat. You have entered a MPA. Stop immediately and reverse your course. You are under law enforcement survelliance. Failure to do so within 60 seconds will cause your arrest.”
You whip the boat in a 180 turn and slow to fix those GPS hiccups. You don’t need trouble with the federal water troops.
You finally reach your fishing spot just as the sun rises heatedly into the summer sky. This spot is one of the major wrecks that had numerous visitors in year’s past. But the New World of fishing control has caused many an ardent angler to sell the boat and vacate the sport. Thus not a whole lot of fishing pressure.
As expected these days, your fishfinder is lit up with bait and target fish this morning, so it should be a good day.
You break out the packages of bait. The use of shrimp, squid, crabs and even live bait were outlawed several years back by the FSFC after incredible pressure from animal rights groups who asserted their position of cruelty to shrimp, crabs and baitfish being used as bait. It even gone so far that just last year the feds prohibited the use of chum as “trickery” to induce fish to feed and get caught.
Those “bait packages” held a composite material that was environmentally friendly but most users questioned as marginally attractive to fish.
Nevertheless your crew baits up with the funny stuff and enthusiastically get on to the fishing. Almost immediately some huge cobia surge by the boat and take a hunk of stuff and your crew ascends into fishing mode. After a 30 minute tussle you have a 30 pound cobia alongside. All the three of you can do is dream of the succulent grilled cobia steaks; you have no cobia take permit; it takes the three of you to release the gorgeous fish.
The day wears on and you catch plenty of fish that do not have take permits. After a six hour effort you manage to have one nice grouper and two snapper in the box with take tickets affixed.
It’s a long slow trip home and you pick up the lines and head back early afternoon. You head for the Capri Pass Federal Control Barge which will have you on it’s wait list. You check back in and the officer takes a picture of your fish and removes the take tags.
As you idle down the river the general tone is remorse. All day, a hundred dollars in fuel, three fish and outlandish controls.
You lament, ”What happened to fishing?”
Your buddies up the ante “What happened to America?”
Capt. Bill Walsh owns an established Marco Island charter fishing business and holds a current U.S. Coast Guard license. Send comments or questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.