All sporting activity carries with it an implied code of honor. You know, those things you do because they are the right thing to do for that particular sport. You do it for yourself and for the love of the sport.
For example, perhaps the loftiest ethical code of conduct is ingrained in the game of golf. Got to count all the strokes, even the whiffs in the woods when nobody is looking; can’t touch the ball in the sandtrap; and the supreme test of honor, counting a stroke for every ball lost.
Golf is beloved by so many for the exact reason that it is such a display of personal honor and gamesmanship. But what about fishing? What ethical standards are in place for a sport that knows no bounds? There is no PGA rule book; there are no established standards of conduct. True, there are governmental rules that outline a litany of do and don’ts but they mostly involve the capture and handling of your piscatorial target.
So, are there ethical rules of conduct in fishing? I’ll submit that there sure are. But, I think they are best defined by negative situational occurrences that are wide of the mark of what could be defined as honorable conduct. Over the years, I’ve experienced my share of these disruptive events that we’ll share today.
We had a charter recently with a dad and his two youngsters. The boys were still single digit in age but loved fishing with a capital L.
Their dad took them fishing every opportunity they had between school and soccer and his work. He made it a point that he wanted the boys to do things themselves; OK to teach but don’t fish for them.
We were in Capri Pass on a nice morning and were working for pompano and mackerel action on a drift and trying to avoid the inevitable catfish. The boys were the fishermen that morning with dad as a coach. True to his word, dad would encourage and coach but never interfere with the boys fishing actions.
We had quite a few strikes and runs by nice pompano but most ended up in cutoffs when the boys faltered on their retrieve. But they were learning and that’s what this day was all about.
Now, there were a half dozen other boats working the same area. All drifting with the current and wind. The pompano were schooled on bait so the boats were all rather close together. Most of the anglers on the other boats were courteous in staying their distance to allow casting and retrieve. Save one boat.
This group of anglers made it a point to make a wake while moving about and coming close in on their drifts. On every pass-by they were less than 10 yards away.
On one of the passes, we said hello and just said nicely, “Little close, huh”? to the three or four guys on this center console. They acknowledged with a Long Island salute. Luckily the kids were busy fishing and missed it.
They knew the kids were struggling with trying to land the darting pompano and a few snickers were evidenced on one of the next close encounters.
We went on and the kids were finally starting to get the knack and had landed their first pompano. Just as there were celebrating with their dad, the center console came by with two of the anglers holding up a brace of nice pompano exclaiming “Is this what you kids were looking for?”
Dad almost came out of his shoes with a few choice words to these louts as they throttled away.
A friend who loved to fish, but always arrived home empty handed, was lamenting one day that he just didn’t know where to fish.
We had spent time going over the Hot Spots chart at the local marina but he just couldn’t fathom how to locate the spots and set up for results. So, one day we planned a trip to the nearshore reefs. Just he and I would indulge in some hands-on experience.
The spot we picked was a reef made of banded groups of old tires that were spread over a large area. No need for pinpoint anchoring accuracy here. We fished for a hour or so and had good results on snapper and a few triggerfish. He was impressed. So much so, he asked me for the coordinates of the spot.
Have made it a practice, as have most charter folks, to keep their “numbers” to themselves but in a moment of compassion that day I gave my friend the numbers with the request that he keep them to himself.
He assured me he wouldn’t give them up even if he were tortured.
About three weeks later, I planned a charter trip to the same reefs and had the “banded tires” spot on the agenda. In the distance, that morning, I saw a number of boats in the area of my reef and as we drew nearer it was evident that there were five or six boats all filled with anglers right smack on the spot.
Incensed, I diverted to another spot but couldn’t wait to call Charlie, my supposed friend. That evening, I got in touch with him and recounted finding six boats on the “banded tires” spot.
“Did you give out the numbers?” was the curt inquiry.
“Well, the other guys at the Fishing Club knew I had begun to catch fish and at the last meeting, they asked me where I was catching all the fish. I couldn’t lie, so I told them,” Charlie exclaimed sheepishly.
There are more than 100 anglers in his club.
I have never seen the spot empty since. I don’t fish there anymore.
As stated there are no specific rules for either of these situations but there certainly is a innate code of conduct that we all should follow especially on the water engaged in the splendid sport of recreational fishing.