It keeps getting worse and closer to invading our angling realities. I’m talking about the mammoth, all encompassing forces of the federal government in cahoots with the forces assembled under the banner of “environmentalists” et al, who are continuing to lay in wait with well developed plans ready to strike and fundamentally change our fishing freedoms and liberties.
You hear little of the effort from the main stream media as the enterprise is well concealed from the general public with but bits and pieces of rhetoric with code names like “catch shares” and “IFQ’s” (Individual Fishing Quotas) slipping by most of us, unnoticed.
In a nutshell, their effort is to limit the number of people who fish; limit the amount of time those “making the cut” can fish; what they can fish for and what they can harvest. Those critical of the methodology being employed to rightfully sustain our fish stocks make issue of the flawed data and artificially induced deadlines being incorporated into the effort. But those in control forge ahead.
They started with the commercial fishermen; basically because these folks have kept catch records and government can get them in their grasp quicker. And they have! There are accusations, lawsuits, protests and lament all along the Northeastern seaboard where hundreds of long term fishing families have been put out of business because others, more connected and powerful, have divvied up their share.
And the same control and micro-management of our fishery is coming to you and me; the charter-for-hire and the recreational angler as soon as the government can figure out how to get their arms around what we catch and where we catch it.
I have written articles that were parodies dealing with the whole issue from the vantage point of what it could be like in the world of “government fishing.” There was the one where you had to check in at the control barge set up in all the passes on your way out and back; and then the one where fishing trips had become so infrequent that charter captains set up replicas of sport fishing cockpits in strip malls and took you for a “virtual” fishing trip.
So we’re going to do that again; incorporating some of the newest control components to provide a quick look at what a recreational fishing trip might look like for a family somewhere down the road as the constraints continue to evolve.
It’s a spring day in 2015 and John has promised his son a fishing trip for his 12th birthday that occurred a week ago but John did not have a day trip license available until today. Jimmy, his son, was super excited especially since he had invited three buddies from the Y basketball team to join him. As they readied, he mentioned the invitees to Dad only to find out, they only had two guest fishing passes left for the month. Long faces and a couple phone calls got the regrettable deed of un-inviting accomplished.
The boat was fueled with the $8 per gallon marine fuel before John and Jimmy went to the Fishing Control Broker to buy some fish tags. You had to have a fish tag for the species harvested attached to the gill cover before you landed back in port. The fish tags had been issued by the government by species. There were 25,000 snapper tags issued at $2 a piece some months back, but within hours fish brokers bought up the issue and allowed them to seek their own price level in the market. Snapper tags this morning were going for $8.50. John could only afford four at that price.
As a matter of interest, grouper tags were initially $4 per and now were trading at $15.10. Wow!
After all that, they boarded the boat, turned on the location transponder and called fish control to announce their departure time, where they would be fishing and expected time of return to the dock of departure. As had occurred the last few times out there would be an fish control official to either intercept them in the river or a meet them at the dock.
As they moved out into the Gulf, they were very careful not to transgress into the MPA (Marine Protected Areas) that dotted the water. Some were poorly marked and you had to be careful. If fish control picked up your transponder in an MPA, they wouldn’t be so crass as to dispatch a marine cruiser, but they would issue a summons for a court appearance and a stiff fine. Expensive stuff; all for a couple of little fish. Oh, well.
It was a nice morning with flat seas and they were heading for the 50/50 Wreck which was one of the only major offshore fishing spots still available. Most all the rest had been designated as an MPA.
They could spot their destination while they were still miles away; there must have been 75 boats in the hundred yard area of the wreck. As they got closer, they could see that many of the boats were literally gunnel to gunnel and fishing the bottom. They found a small open spot and set anchor.
Now, their main target, of course, was snapper and they had four tags for this species. The daily limit for snapper per individual was two “hooked keepers”. That means you had to hook and land your fish; no hooking, landing and giving it to someone else. No taking a third snapper if you already had your limit; no matter what the others had done.
As fate would have it, John caught his two snapper right at the start and was trying to instruct the kids into catching two more to use up the tags when Jimmy, working one of the medium size rods latched onto what had to be a formidable grouper. He struggled valiantly and surfaced a minimum size keeper gag grouper at 27.” Beautiful fish that would have fed the gang for at least a couple of dinners.
Keeper fish, in season, but no tag. Release.
Trip finished with two snappers and the fish control person checked them at the dock just as published.
Draconian? Can’t happen?. Cut this article out and put it in the family time capsule and pop it out a few years down the line.
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 email@example.com.