In the spirit of holiday giving, I have been sharing my thoughts on ethical fishing communications with a new generation of malleable young grand-nieces and nephews. Feel free to pass along to your own future generations...
Little Sammy prefers to be known as Sam now, and he is just now launching a career in law out in Virginia. A few short years ago, his beloved uncle Bill took Sammy fishing for bluegills at a pond near his home. After returning to a kitchen full of aunties, one of them asked the boy: “So, what did you learn from your uncle today?” Without hesitation, the little future lawyer piped up:
“He taught me how to lie about fishing.”
I should have known even then the boy was destined to a life of splitting hairs about legal stuff. But truth to tell, there is a fine line between light-hearted banter and outright disregard for truth. So as my holiday gift to young anglers and voters everywhere, here is how to tell the difference:
In Sam’s case, what he should have absorbed that day on the water was some basics of fishing communications ethics, such as:
- “The plural of one fish is still fish, so you can truthfully say after a near skunk, ‘Oh yeah. We caught fish.’”
- When you extend your hands in a time-honored manner to indicate the size of a catch, this is universally understood to be a rough approximation. Actual sizes may vary, though they are unlikely to be any longer.
- You can reasonably expect a truthful answer to one angling question: “Where is a good place to take my grandkids, so they can catch fish?” You may even learn specific locations, depth, baits and best times of day this way, so don’t abuse this rare candor to selfishly seek the location of a friend’s secret bluegill hole.
- As a youthful consumer of angling information, above all be skeptical. Anglers of Sammy’s age are naively truthful about things like location, water clarity, and accurate assessment of the number and size of a day’s catch. You can assume their uncles and aunts and grandpas are more likely to embellish.
Back in more innocent times, before Photoshop and random poaching images of other people’s fish pictures on the Internet, most people believed a cliché’ that said: “Photos don’t lie.” Truth is, that was naive even before the types of distortions you get from the wide angle lenses found on today’s smart phones.
I went fishing the other day with Dave and Norm, which explains why I’ve been thinking about the unwritten ground rules for communications within the Loveland Fishing Club (where average age now approaches 80, so we’ve had a lot of time to think about this.)
For one thing, the only time one’s fishing report must literally adhere to absolute truthiness is after fishing alone. Under such circumstances, it is easier to get away with outright deception. But there is no joy in deliberately misleading your fishing buddies, who are skeptical anyway. If you have one or two corroborating witnesses to an outing - that is, fishing buddies - they can truth check your report with a simple roll of the eyes or otherwise hint that your supposed Master Angler largemouth was really a 5-inch green sunfish. However, while obligated to add realism to any fishing conversation, they are also expected to remain reasonably silent until after a BS-er has his or her chance to properly embellish a story. Never prematurely stomp on someone else’s punch line.
Also, if you’re on the receiving end of an old timer’s tale, remember it is unreasonable to expect someone to tell you the unvarnished truth about exactly where to go fishing, or exactly what to do when you get there. On FishExplorer.com, a popular website that encourages information sharing, editors are wise and realistic enough to only ask members to share information on a lake’s current water level and temperature. Asking for more is like a spouse asking whether we have time to mow grass: such requests merely encourage otherwise honest people to blurt out something besides the unvarnished truth.
In short, remember the words of a Loveland Fishing Club member (who shall remain nameless):
“My one worry about dying is, my wife will sell my fishing gear for what I told her I paid for it.”
Bill John Prater