At the end of last week I came across this story here that I believe was published in a local newspaper down here - my thanks to Matt's blog for alerting me to the article. Now this rant is not going to make much sense until you stop and read the article, but to put it very briefly - last week a local angler in Plymouth had what must go down as one of the great catches of bass from the shore ever. No taking anything away from the guy, when you land I believe five fish over the magical 10lbs then that is something seriously special. Plus of course it makes me feel rather good about things that fish of that class are swimming around the Plymouth Sound Area and might one day jump on a lure or bait of mine..........
Or at least those particular five double figure bass might have gone and jumped on a lure or bait of mine (or indeed yours) one day if the angler had not gone and killed every single one of them, plus some other slightly smaller ones as well. Yes, you read it right. An angler goes and makes fishing history with one hell of a catch of bass the like of which might never be repeated, but then decides that all these fish need to be killed. Now either the guy has one hell of a big family to feed or else I might well assume (rightly or wrongly of course) that these fish were destined to be sold. I can not tell you how angry and sick I have been feeling about this whole sordid event. Does one just give up and accept that there is always going to be an element within this wonderful sport that will forever behave as if we are in the dark ages and wilfully kill almost everything they catch, or does one keep on hoping that one day we might actually get there ? I am so proud to be a UK saltwater angler, but how do I keep hold of this pride when a shameful act like this makes me deeply embarrassed to be a part of a fishing scene in which this still happens ?
OK, so to put it plainly, and from my Friday Rant point of view - what this angler has done to these fish makes me sick, sad and very angry. But is that right of me to feel that way ? A part of me can't but help but think that UK sea fishing is just never going to get there. I don't like feeling like that, but most of you here will have no idea how many discussions and arguments I have had around here over the years about not killing fish like these for glory purposes. Or indeed to sell. But it goes beyond this. Surely as anglers we are the people who have such a strong interest in the well-being of our seas ? So how does it look for the non-angler to look in a newspaper or online and see a piece essentially glorifying the killing of all these fish ?
Now of course it is very easy for me to rant and rave about what has happened, but I do believe that it is worth exploring this from different angles. By now you know how I feel about this, but I have also done a bit of digging around. If we take the angler and what he did out of the equation for the moment, then let's look at the wider picture. In the end, for all my despising what this guy has done, in the end he is perfectly within his rights to catch and kill all those fish. I do wish that there were tightly enforced regulations in place that did not allow all those fish to be killed, but that sadly seems like pie in the sky here in the UK.
So does one look to blame the writer/photographer of this news story for helping to get it out there ? Well I happen to know the guy who photographed those fish and wrote the story, and I spoke to him to ask his own thoughts. Mike Millman has been reporting on fishing around here since before I was even born, and as he quite rightly said to me, he's a reporter, and he reports the (fishing) news. A reporter does not comment on the story, they report it. You don't see a news reporter for example providing their own personal thoughts about those scum rioters on TV do you ? I bet they would like to, but a reporter must remain neutral and just report the news for us lot to make our own minds up. So Mike Millman got a call that there was one hell of a catch of bass going on and he raced down to cover it. Mike can't remember a catch of bass like this for as long as he has been working in the south west, so of course it is one hell of a fishing news story, and it's his job to make us aware of it. Would I myself report a catch like this if I had got the call ? No. Plain and simple I do not photograph dead fish, and I don't get involved in anything that might revolve around killing to weigh or sell. I have done in the past, but this was never a way forward for me. But do not for one second mistake this as any kind of dig at Mike, because it isn't. Mike reports fishing news and I do not. I was never going to get that call, and Mike did what any reporter would have done.
Can one look to blame the people in charge for not having enforced rules and regulations in place that do not allow the killing of all those fish, and especially if those bass were actually sold. The fact that a shore angler is perfectly within their rights to kill as many fish as they like must surely be wrong. Yes of course there is usually a way around most things, but the simple fact is that if I was lucky enough to go and catch 100 double figure bass this weekend I could quite legitimately slaughter the whole lot of them without any fear of repercussions. I also bet you I could just as easily sell them (illegally) and again fear not for one second about anything happening to me. I stand by my opinion that any angler who sells their fish is not a sport angler. Sport fishing is a sport. Selling fish is a commercial thing.
I would guess that the saltwater fishing mags will pick up on this admittedly incredible catch of bass, and I can already imagine the flak that will fly towards these publications on the internet forums. But should anybody blame a magazine that is of course going to want to report on a phenomenal catch of bass ? Does a magazine or indeed magazine NOT report on something like this because of the killing of the fish ? No. They report the catch and filter the feedback I guess to try and provide a balanced viewpoint. Quite aside from what I feel about the killing of these bass, from a purely fishing point of view the angler did something quite incredible, and a magazine or newspaper is going to need to put that across to its readers.
But for all this talk of blame, in the end I firmly believe that it comes down to the individual. We live in a blame culture where as a whole we seem to struggle with the concept of taking responsibility for our actions, and it makes me sick to be perfectly honest. Look at those scum rioters and looters on TV and you have to wonder what on earth is going on in our country. Why does one person loot and the next person does not ? Why does a drug dealer sell drugs yet most other people don't ? For all the rules, laws and regulations, still for the most part it comes down to the choices we ourselves make and the way we live our lives. That individual angler could have chosen NOT to kill all those fish, but he did. The chain of events that happened after the capture and killing is merely a by-product of this guy choosing to slaughter so many old, prime bass that might have gone on to produce many more prime bass. You could have all the fishing regulations in place to try and prevent stuff like this going on, but still you have to boil it down to the individual and the choices he or she makes. The angler was perfectly within their rights to take those fish, but what would you have done in the same situation ? What choice would you have made ?
Have a good few days all - I am away with my family next week and won't be putting any blog posts up until the week starting Monday 22nd August. Here's hoping for blue skies, warm temperatures and plenty of crabs, blennies and other such things for me and my girls to collect in our buckets (and then jump up and down on them until they are all dead because I am quite within my rights to do so. Or perhaps not because I am trying to help my girls understand what is right and wrong in life). What could possibly be better than messing around on the beach with your family ? The simple things.........