Something that I had to learn early on was that there are some realities that are immutable, and the sooner I learned to accept them, the easier it was to get on with the business of living. In other words, as the late, great Don Zaidle once told me: “deal with it.”
There are such realities in fishing. I don’t mean the obvious ones such as “It’s called fishing, not catching.” or “Fish only bite when you aren’t ready for them to bite.” These are irrefutable facts that can’t be ignored and must be accepted. No, I’m referring to some facts that, upon first glance, appear to be subjective issues that require — even demand — debate and reform. Upon further examination, however, they are also the sort of realities that fishermen have to — well — learn to deal with.
1. Game Wardens are Not Our Friends
Before anyone fires off an e-mail to tell me that I’m being unfair and inflammatory, bear with me. Game wardens are not our friends in the same sense that parents aren’t our friends. These hard-working men and women are charged with enforcement of the game and boating laws of the state of Texas. It’s a tough job, and way too often they have to deal with hunters and anglers who take being found In violation — or simply being checked for their licenses — with indignation and even belligerence. I have often heard the complaint, “He gave me a ticket for not having my license/having a fish 1/8th an inch short/not having a lousy throw cushion.” or whatever.
I should hope so. I have been ticketed twice. Once I had forgotten my Boater’s Registration had expired the month before; the second time was because I had one fish that turned out shorter than I thought (so much for those marks on my rod being accurate). I had no excuse in either case, and I accepted my citation and wished the warden well as he went about his business.
It was his job to cite me, as it is to cite anyone who is in violation. Just like it his job to ensure that every boat he stops to check has all the appropriate safety equipment, and every angler is in compliance with the licensing and bag laws.
If an angler is in violation and a game warden chooses to write a ticket instead of giving a warning, it isn’t anything personal; it is his duty. He’s not being snotty. They don’t get their jollies by writing a ticket, nor do they have a monthly quota to meet. They have a job to do, and sometimes that means they have to cite someone for breaking the law.
Deal with it.
2. Tournament Weighmasters Aren’t Allowed to Negotiate
I have the privilege of serving as weighmaster at several tournaments throughout the year. I am amazed at the remarkable level of indignation some anglers show when they run afoul of a tournament rule that won’t be bent for them.
On more than one occasion I have had anglers bring a fish to the measuring stick that was either too short or too long, sometimes by over a half-inch and they feel like I’ve cheated them by disallowing the fish. Some stomp around and huff and puff about the unfairness of the rule, but none claim that they are not in violation of the rule (it is especially tough if the contestant is a child, because I really believe that the parent is setting me up to be the bad guy because he just can’t tell his kid there are rules that must be followed).
I’ve also had to deal with such rules violations as bringing a mutilated fish to the table or trying to weigh-in after time had been called (in one case, the only reason a redfish was legal was because its tail had been chewed down to the nub. That made the fish unallowable for two reasons, and I was still lambasted for sticking to the rules).
The rules of any tournament are established for a reason, and they apply to every entrant into the tournament. Making an exception for one person is unfair, and shouldn’t be expected.
Deal with it.
3. Game Laws are Not Written to Prevent Anglers from Catching Fish
I have heard and read a lot of opinions about how strict some bag limits should be, not to protect the fishery, but to make sure only a few fishermen actually fished for them. I remember one reader writing and telling me that the Texas snook fishery should be release-only because, “too many people think it’s okay to eat them. Another advised me that I should write a column calling for a reduced bag limit of two speckled trout per person per day because too many people try to catch their limits.
State fishery officials have to balance regulations between protecting the resources and allowing a maximum number of people to enjoy the resource. They establish the current size and possession limits based on data that show how much pressure each fishery can withstand. They don’t tailor their rules to cater to any special interest groups. If their data says a species can withstand a certain level of harvest, they adjust the regulation accordingly.
It is unreasonable to expect them to make law at the whim of any group of anglers who think certain species of fish are their personal preserves. The weekend angler who uses live bait is just as entitled to catch — and keep — a 27-inch snook as much as anyone else. The state says so.
Deal with it.