I’m sitting here on my couch, surrounded (actually, buried) by one brown and one black labrador retriever. I’m scouring the Internet for fishing content to keep me busy while I wait for my new skiff to arrive next week, and watch the Heat lose to the Spurs. I’m reading it all, Save the Tarpon updates, image searches of old Hell’s Bay Whiprays, and archive photos of the Everglades; when much of it was still a mystery.
I came across a website during my web wandering which was quite the opposite if this one. Apparently, there are people who have disdain for other anglers who can afford nice boats, clothes, and expensive fly rods. I always thought these were things to strive for in life, but that’s neither here nor there (well, it actually is “there”). It’s also not what prompted me to go into a deep and slightly random thought about conservation tonight. It was a photo on the web of three dead redfish, on top of a cooler filled with beer. The website also had a posting about the negativity of the PTTS (Professional Tarpon Tournament Series) and their uncivilized clownery they call tarpon fishing, which is a plus since we hate the PTTS too! So, we shared something in the name of conservation.
“Conservation in many cases is not just what is law. It is what is right.”
This prompted me to ask myself; “What does conservation mean to you?” People obviously have different levels and different reasons for practicing what we deem to be conservation. Conservation in many cases is not just what is law. It is what is right. Conservation is morals, and conservation is respect. If you can nonchalantly disrespect the fishery you are in, then you not only lack morals and are disrespecting nature, but you are showing a complete lack of respect your fellow angler. That should make you, the ‘fellow angler’ who is reading this, upset.
On the low end of the conservation spectrum (well, I guess the people I am about to explain aren’t even on it at all) there are people who just don’t care at all. They will litter, they will break the law, keep undersize fish, they will exceed limits, and they will just flat out be the bane of the sea when out on the water. If you’ve been on the water long enough, you’ve more than likely experienced this lowest form of boat clown.
In the middle, you have your regular angler. They will follow slot rules, boating safety, and they utilize morals and respect to navigate the water and their fishery ecosystem. Not to mention use common sense, which the bubba on the bottom of the spectrum lacks.
On the high end of the conservation spectrum we have our perfect outdoors enthusiast and angler. They will pick up others trash, they will not keep a single fish they catch, they enjoy the sport of fishing for what it is, and they will never run their boat over precious seagrass or any other compromising areas. Unfortunately, not everyone will ever reach this level of consideration and this type of outdoorsman is few and far in between.
Some see no problem with keeping fish to eat, others think flicking a cigarette butt overboard is ok to do, and some feel that seagrass is just grass and it will grow back. So you see, conservation has its levels and its own meaning to each and every one of us.
The problem with your every day angler is education and the effects that the weight of conservation has on them personally. By that I mean: Will conservation effect the future of the fishery for them or their children? Do they see any benefit in picking up trash from others in the water? Do they pole their skiff that extra 100 yards to reach the edge of a flat before motoring up?
Have you ever been so fatigued from poling the flats that you have thought about, or have actually turned on your outboard in shallow water knowingly tearing up seagrass? We have all been there, but we all made a choice that separates those who truly care about their fishery from the ones who don’t. What is another downside to having so little outdoorsmen on the water with conservation on their minds? The “one person ruined it for everyone” effect. When a problem such as littering gets so bad (look up the Mosquito Lagoon campsite closures due to drunken asshats leaving garbage everywhere), authorities such as FWC are forced to enact laws or close down areas such as camp sites and fishing flats (another example, see the most recent poll and troll proposal from FWC for Everglades National Park). It only takes a small percentage of the overall angling population to ruin it for everyone, it builds up over time. We all know what happens when “the man” enacts laws…they are rarely reversed, and are even more rarely not confusingly convoluted and overreaching.
Getting back on the topic of education. Knowledge is power, right? The more boaters know, the better. If the everyday fisherman knew how much littering affected them and the animals in their ecosystem, I’m hoping, and thinking super optimistically that it would persuade some to think twice before making an action that could potentially harm their fishery. We’re not just talking about those slides from elementary school with the turtle stuck in the aluminum can 6-pack plastic, real campaigns put out at boat ramps and on water signage. With my marketing background I can think of quite a few ways to get to people. Then again, education circles back to morals and respect. What good is education if you dont have the respect to use it? What good are morals and respect if you dont know when to use them? (Hint: always)
Obviously, there are some people who are just useless wastes of oxygen, but they are that way in every facet of their miserable lives and not just on the water.
Whats the point of this post? I’m not sure. I like speaking about conservation, and I want the fisheries that I enjoy across the state of Florida to be enjoyed by my children and their children in the future. Heck, I also want to launch my skiff and bring some fish to the boat on a nice day without seeing garbage floating around me or having a boater run wide open over 4″ of water because his manufacturer said it runs in 3″. It’s food for thought, something to speak about, and something to mention to your friends next time your out on the water. Maybe after reading this someone will pick up that empty water bottle they see on the water or keep one less fish for the fryer. Wouldn’t that be cool?