On the Hook: Fishing ethics of the next generation

Bill Walsh
Tony Leyva with a nice Cobia on a late afternoon trip with Capt. Christian Sommer.

We bring you a tale from not long ago about the character of our country and, in particular, our younger generation.

Our focused person on a charter was Jimmy, a brand new Boy Scout from North Florida with a goal of earning a special merit badge that involved sport fishing and a certification on angling ethics.

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As always in the Scouts, he would have to demonstrate a working knowledge of all of the facets of sport fishing and then pledging to live by same.

Jimmy pulled out his book of requirements that called for certification and his question to me was quite direct and simple. His dad pledged to be his sponsor and his financier that Saturday morning.

“Would you help me, Captain?”

“Be glad to, Jimmy, just show me where you want to start.”

He explained that he had to do everything all by himself from catching bait to cleaning the catch. And along the way, he had to display an understanding of the nine points of the code of angling ethics that we’re required to be attested to by the testing captain.

The code of angling ethics was created by a consortium of governmental and private organizations to create a blueprint fostering sound attitudes for all who engage in the recreational fisheries.

Introduction of the basic principles so important to sustaining have been pioneered by youth organizations like the Boy Scouts as well as Conservation groups and sport fishing organizations. All the effort and by the genuine acceptance by the youngsters themselves bodes well for the future.

We started Jimmy off catching his own bait, rigged with sabiki hooks he found that catching a dozen thread herring was not as easy as it looked. He spent exhaustive time just to capture a minimum bait supply.

Jimmy only wanted to keep a few fish. They would be the ones we would have to clean and filet; all the rest would be released so Jimmy learned about circle hooks and the ease that the fish can be dehooked with minimal damage

We fished some grass flats and the trout were all over the small live bait as well as the shrimp. Jimmy was a good student as we discussed such things as keep sizes and fish that ere out of season.

We were releasing lots of smaller trout, with Jimmy doing most of the work, Captain, who

would know if we kept a smaller fish?

“You would, Jimmy and that’s what important. You need to do what’s right. It’s a matter of honor.

We did all kinds of things that day. From cleaning and fishing old line out of mangrove trees to scooping up floating debris and putting it in debris bags.

The final chore of the day turned out to be the most harrowing, Jimmy cleaning fish for the first time. To reach him to the cleaning table, we stood him on an empty bucket and prayed that the knife wouldn’t slip.

He was a proud kid on his achievements with an A-plus. He was well on this well on his way to his well-deserved merit badge.

That’s but a microcosm of what this countries values of right vs wrong stand for. From Bunker Hill to Iwo Jima; and always will.

God Bess all our citizens that paid the ultimate price these past weeks and to all health care workers that gave it their all to save them.

God bless America.

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