My Brother’s Keeper
It is such a shame that it only takes a few to hurt us all. Sure, we all want to catch fish, know great spots, and then show off what we caught. In doing this comes a responsibility, that is to ensure future generations can enjoy our passion as much or more than we do. Learning how to fish is not just learning how to throw a line out and retrieve a fish.
Ethical angling involves conservation, preservation, and common sense. This includes land based, wade, kayak, and boat anglers. The easiest place to start is by studying the Florida Wildlife Conservation (FWC) rules at myfwc.com. There is an enormous difference between breaking the law by poaching and unknowingly making mistakes. If you are an angler that poaches, no excuses, you should be fined or imprisoned. Ethics on the other hand is information learned through friends, forums, radio and TV shows, etc.
It is our responsibility as experienced anglers to pass down and “politely” make sure individuals with lessor experience are aware of these unwritten rules. It is not always easy to do this and in some cases may be met by resistance from others. Educating and not belittling people is a key factor in doing this in an effective manner. As in anything, there are some people that will resist no matter what approach is taken. Some anglers take offense to what they perceive as the “tree hugger” or “fish police” behind the computer.
Promoting ethical angling is an “all in” deal. The key to this is knowing and keeping current with the regulations. There is nothing worse than being chastised by someone that has no clue of what they are talking about. We must be willing to do this up close and personal while out and observing other people fishing. Ethics have no concrete measurements and can be difficult to convey and be taken seriously. An ethical angler must also have the intestinal fortitude to take flack, this just comes with the territory.
Spreading the word is a huge responsibility. With this responsibility comes consistency, you must then “practice what you preach”. The easiest way to lose credibility is to not heed what you are advising. There is a difference between legal and ethical. For instance, if an individual has a legal bag limit and you don't agree with the current regulations, this isn't something that should be challenged. If these issues concern you to that degree, get involved with conservation legislation. A person is well within their rights to catch and keep as long as they are within the rules.
In this day and age, with all of the online picture posting it is very easy to “pull the trigger” too fast. What you perceive as illegal or unethical, just may not be. Knowing where and when a picture was taken must be considered, rules differ everywhere. On the other hand, online pictures are some of the best evidence of poaching or just ignorance on an anglers part. In the case of poaching, don't hesitate, call the FWC, these individuals don't deserve the right to have a fishing rod in their hands. If the picture displays mishandling of a fish that is going to be released, this is a good opportunity to make this a learning experience for that person and anyone else following that post.
The promoting of ethical angling is not going to make your life any easier, but is is imperative that experienced anglers do this. Know the rules and use education and tact when trying to teach others how to preserve our wonderful way of life. We want our passion to be passed on for generations, without your help this may not be possible!
Published by: Woods N Water Magazine September 2016 edition