On The Hook: Fishing’s future belongs to us too

Bill Walsh

Our article this week is not intended to be political, but in the effort to position the public’s role in participation in that endeavor it may stray away occasionally. But pay that no mind, just stay focused on the delight most all of us enjoy with sportfishing and look forward to on warm summer afternoons and dream about on cold winter nights.

More:Fishingcast: Conditions for Southwest Florida, April 26-May 2

Mark this interlude with the premise that conservation and preservation of all the species that inhabit our waters belong to us. And, bottom line, if we fish commercially or recreationally, we are the stakeholders of the resource.

That’s not fresh news for anyone who dips a bait in the water. In fact, we apparently haven’t done a “bang up” job on handling that control witnessed by the proliferation of state and federal authority mandates that govern everything from “where”, “when”, “how big”, “how small”, “required licenses”, that so on ad infinitum.

Above all the major influences of the young having been raised and educated with a heightened sense of environmental importance, have a significant impact on their elders and the recreational angling community in general.

But, as things go, I think the American public is catching on with the effort to conserve and perpetuate the sport of American sport-fishing. I have seen that in more than one “up front and personal” experience in the charter fishing business and glad to share those experiences in this week’s article.

The days of yesteryear, thankfully, I perceive as long gone. I can vividly recall those winter and spring fishing trips with groups of “condo commandos” where if we did not have our catch overflowing the cooler, the trip would have been deemed a “bust”.

I can recall asking the “commandos”, time and time again “You guys eat all these fish?” And the being reassured with a unanimous “you betcha!”

My naivety was squelched on one late winter, early spring trip with one condo gang when I heard them discussing their preparations for their trip back north. There were issues discussed on getting their vehicle transported back home and a range of other items to close things down here.

One of the items discussed that stopped me cold was a universal reminder to “clean out the freezer, need to make sure all those fish we caught don’t spoil during the summer.

In a “nice way, I gave them the conservation spiel and said next season we would limit the take to a meal or two; the balance of the “keeper” catch would be released. If that didn’t fit their agenda, I’d be glad to refer them to another charter operator.

They knew I was right. Their excessive take was a matter of braggadocio. They all came back the following season and many thereafter.

It’s sad but yesteryear folks would easily measure the satisfaction of a sportfishing adventure, not on the joy of the catch and the interval with nature but with the number of fish numbed out in the cooler. But things are changing with many more instances of asking that all catch be released to just taking a few fresh fish for lunch.

Youngsters have a big influence on their interface with the earth’s creatures. Some years back, I had a family of five aboard with the spark plug of the gang, a young girl named Nancy. The other four were two early teen boys and mom and dad. Nancy went to the front of the boat and read her book the other four were hyper fishing addicts working in the back.

Well, the “fish catch” cooler was in the front of the boat with Nancy and we had quite a good outing that day on the First and Second Reefs just offshore. We were into scads of mackerel and bluefish et al that morning and as the “team” caught keepers they would carefully pass take them up to the cooler where Nancy was ensconced.

As the morning progressed, the “fishing team” was hyper-excited about the marvelous fresh fish lunch that lay ahead. They talked incessantly about which Island restaurant would do the best job on their catch.

All the while, Nancy had been alone and quiet in the front of the boat, only interrupted to stand up while a “catch” was slipped into the iced cooler. We finished up late morning and after raking the rods, the family moved forward to check out their lunch.

Empty. The cooler was empty. Nancy has quietly dispatched the struggling “fishies” back into the drink.

Dad sat shaking his head and then laughed, what else? He had a primo conversationalist in the family for sure.

So, bottom line, the sustainability of this great sport belongs to all of us. Not government! Do what’s right in following rules and take your catch in moderation.

More:On the Hook: The #98 fishing trip

Capt. Bill Walsh owns a charter fishing business and holds a U.S. Coast Guard license. Send comments to dawnpatrolmarco@cs.com.