It’s a scene at a boat ramp anywhere. A guy is cleaning a nice catch and a interested bystander walks up and asks, “Nice fish ... where did you catch them?” The angler turns slowly, obviously annoyed at the intrusion, and responds, “In the mouth.”
Fishing has an unwritten decorum or code of conduct that forbids you to divulge where and how you caught your fish. The closest you can come to spilling the beans might be something like “offshore.” I really think that’s the way it’s been since the days of Isaac Walton.
But there still exists the fundamentalists that think that information belongs to everyone ... “I have as equal a right to those fish as you do.”
Not so. It takes long hours of exploration and experimentation to discover a great fishing spot. Either backwater or offshore. Knowing the good fishing spots doesn’t come by accident, it comes from hours of hard work. Why on earth would you give them away to a total stranger?
But the seekers never quit and they come after you with various techniques all with the same intention to capture and use your information.
Got a couple of their best techniques that I’d like to share with you this week.
These folks usually show just as the snowbird invasion takes to full strength. They arrive with trailered Lundcraft or Bass Trackers launched at the ramps and for the first couple of weeks are gathering “intelligence.” They will stealthily shadow backwater charter boats or private boats that look like they know the waters. As you set up on a spot you’ll easily spot them peeking around a corner of a creek and making a mark on their chart.
You’ll get to know them fairly well as they will be hunkered down right smack on your spot the very next time you return.
So, it’s everyman’s water, so what’s wrong with that? But’s it’s still a cheesy approach in an honorable game.
Some years back, I had a snowbird that shadowed me every day for a week. On a open day, I intentionally made a trip into their domain and set up on spots that had never produced a fish. I saw them vigorously making notes around a hidden bend of the creek. Touché!
You’re set up on an nearshore spot that you worked for years to know the proper angle of approach on either tide and on which side of the structure would be the best for each situation. In the distance you see a “go-fast” Cigarette type boat closing on your position. They get close and you see three of four guys huddled around the fishfinder getting a reading on your spot.
They pass 50 yards off at first and then turn back and pass close enough that you could offer them a soft drink, all the while the boat operator is busily pushing GPS buttons recording your position in electronic memory.
Nice, huh? You’ll probably see this boat again working the spot you developed sooner than you expect.
Let me start with a story here about a senior captain that worked out of Goodland a few years back. Seems he had a charter down into the reaches south of Everglades City with a crew of guys from Chicago that was going particularly well, but every time they moved to a new spot, one guy kept excusing himself to use the facilities. This good captain suspected something and went below to find the customer recording the GPS coordinates of every spot they fished. The resultant action was very succinct; the captain asked for the GPS and threw it overboard.
It’s not as obvious these days. Almost everyone has a “smart phone” with a mapping capability and can record GPS coordinates. So you can respond to email, make a phone call, or steal the fishing spot coordinates with one device.
We had a real life experience with the event here just a couple weeks back. It was one of those infrequent days where the wind abated and we had a chance to go nearshore, comfortably. There were three instant generation guys hosted by their boss who lived in Naples; all in the business of financial consultation. We had conditions that allowed us to get nearshore and we were working my spots from Keeywadin south to Caxambas. Doing well on mackerel on most every spot and also having some luck on nice size mangrove snapper.
Every time we’d get into fish the “boss” would ease to the front of the boat and break out his “smart phone” and then be scribbling things in a notepad.
Curious and yet unsuspecting, I approached him and asked what he was recording. He blanched and make some weak excuse like “to do items” and I asked if I could see them. In the notebook were the coordinates of our last three fishing spots.
I told him the trip was over unless he surrendered the scribblings in the notebook and turned off the smart phone. Embarrassed in front of his employees, he agreed.
There are hundreds of published reef spots all long the coastline of Lee and Collier Counties and they all produce fish. Why anyone would attempt to pirate the spots that hard working charter folks have developed over the years is beyond me.
Maybe it’s that they just don’t honor individual freedoms; maybe it’s whatever you have should be ours and we can spread it around. Sound familiar in today’s environment ?
Think so ...
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