T his is a column that I occasionally moved to compose, but some other seemingly more pressing subject pops up that demands my attention. Even so, the grist for this piece never dissolves or blows away. It sits there and waits for the time when I can actually sit down and get to writing about it.
The inspiration for these words first struck me at a scoping meeting back when Texas Parks and Wildlife was considering reducing the state bag for Lower Laguna Madre speckled trout from 10 to 5. If anyone remembers those meetings, the discussions from those for and against the change were actually quite cordial. Almost everyone present was concerned about the fishery, its status, and how to maintain and improve it far into the future.
The key word is “almost.” There was a small faction that was led by a fairly outspoken angler who felt that the most effective way to convey their agenda was by insulting their fellow anglers. Their agenda included reducing the bag to two fish per person, and outlawing the use of finfish for trout bait (mainly, but not only, the ubiquitous croaker).
Insults such as “lazy fishermen,” “incompetent morons,” and some terms even less complimentary than that were tossed out and into the record (I listened to the micro cassette of the meeting, and to this day, I can’t help but shake my head). I remember some other members of the meeting just sitting there and stewing at the diatribe and name calling.
Over the years, I have come to the conclusion that the events which transpired when this person and his cadre got control of the mike at the scoping meetings is a persistent problem among anglers who share the Texas Coast. Many don’t play well with others.
Whether it’s fishing the same area as others, buzzing the shoreline behind wade fishermen, or harassing fellow anglers as they go about their business of legally catching fish, there is an ugly miasma of disrespect that collects when the numbers of anglers fishing the coast grows in the summer.
Perhaps the best example of this lack of respect and consideration can be seen when one boatload of anglers cuts off another boat’s drift. The scene is familiar. One boat is on plane and roars by too close to another boat or collection of boats fishing an area.
Anglers in the stationary boat will glare and perhaps raise their arms in the universal “What the Hell?” gesture. Then the offending boater either ignores the other boats—or worse, responds with his own gesture.
Granted, there are times where cutting off drifting boats is unavoidable, such as in relatively small areas, or where anglers are fishing in high traffic zones. However, often an angler is either not paying attention to his surroundings and who might be there—or worse still—simply doesn’t care.
An even more egregious version of this practice is the angler who deliberately cuts off another’s drift to horn in on the spot. This usual sequence of events begins with an angler on Boat A hooking a fish, and Boat B motoring over, getting directly in front of Boat A, and setting its drift on the same line. A permutation of this practice is a boat handler pulling a couple of hundred yards in front of Boat A and depositing a group of wade-fishermen to completely cut off the drift.
More often than not, some harsh words are exchanged and the entire episode might end with Boat A departing, but not before they use their motor to blast out of the spot and ruin the fishing for all.
Waders have to cope with similar issues. Many a wade fisherman can tell you a story about a boat buzzing the shallows between them and the shoreline or, worse still, running too close to them and almost hitting them or inundating them with a wake. The scary thing is that waders can’t take quick evasive action because of their position in the water. Many a wade fishermen can tell you a story of watching a boat burning hell for leather along the shoreline and missing a wader by mere feet.
I once saw an angler in a shiny-new flats boat barrel race through a group of waders that were staggered along a shoreline. I would hate to think the fisherman was doing it for sport.
Technology has made the bays of the Texas Coast much smaller than they used to be. Fabled far away spots that used to have little fishing pressure, now look like parking lots on a nice weekend.
More anglers are fishing more days than ever before. I, and some other longtime anglers have seen the change. We have seen some entitled loudmouths who have begun to crowd the water. These are the people who think that vulgarity and derision are not only appropriate forms of communication, but the preferred versions.
Still, I like to think that most people are more considerate and tolerant of their fellow anglers than these braying asses. The trick is, we need to know how to rein them in.
Email Cal Gonzales at [email protected]