From the Crow's Nest
by Capt. Charlie Phillips
The crow's nest is the highest point on a vessel and used as a lookout point. As the president of Florida Guides Association (FGA) I plan to be on the lookout for hazards as well as opportunities that affect our organization. This column will be used to communicate my observations to you. Please feel free to share our newsletter with any of your friends that may also believe in our mission to protect Florida's fishery resource to the benefit of recreational angling.
A Blurring Distinction
Welcome to June, the official start of summer (though who can tell the difference down here) and this month’s edition of the Florida Guides Association newsletter and my editorial “From the Crow’s Nest “piece. I sometimes push it to the wire (much to the chagrin of Capt. Ron Presley who puts all this together each month) on what to touch on. It’s often just not an easy thing, or sometimes there’s too many things to touch on that I have a hard time focusing on just one.
For this month, I want to touch on something I see coming in the not too distant future, vilification of those people who choose to harvest a fish, or hunt an animal that has been deemed “untouchable” by our current society.
I know a great many of you have heard the recent news about a young boy falling into a gorilla pen in which the gorilla was put down to ensure the boys safety. Now I am not going to touch on parent’s responsibility or any of that stuff. Not my wheelhouse. What struck me about this issue was the fact that people would even question an animal’s life over that of a young boy. As a matter of fact if you took a casual look thru social media you could find some comments concerning the value of a human life over the gorillas that was downright concerning.
When did there become any question that when a young boy falls in a gorilla pen, and there is a chance the boy could be injured or worse, on what to do? To me it’s a no brainer, but there are a great many people in our world today that seem to strongly disagree with that thinking. I am not personally a big hunter, and have a hard time anymore harvesting a deer for my freezer (turning into a big softy in my old age) but if there is ever a question on a human in danger or the life of the animal, I think you know where I am aiming. How many of you ever thought 10 years ago we would be having this conversation? I know I didn’t.
Our world is changing, people are blurring the lines nowadays in my opinion on the role of a human vs that of wildlife. I recently saw a video of a lady who had a brown bear eating her kayak outside her house. She was trying to reason with the animal as it systematically dismantled her boat. While greatly amusing to me, again this is concerning as that blurred line is growing fuzzier and fuzzier and more and more humans think animals are people who listen to reason and react as humans do.
Personally, (and I say this with a bit of tongue in cheek) I blame cartoons. Cartoons gave animals, human personality, gave them human emotion and human logic. For a great portion of our nation, these movies, cartoons, and social media are as close as they will ever get to being around a wild animal. Other than a Central Park Squirrel, or a San Francisco pigeon, they will never be around an actual bear, encounter a shark in the water or hear an osprey cry high overhead. Being fair, if those movies and cartoons are their only interaction, how can you blame them for forgetting these are animals and not humans.
I know, I know, what does this have to do with fishing? We are the Florida Guides Association, not the Florida hunters group. Well we are the Florida GUIDES Association, and we do have some who make their living hunting from boats. Several of our members pay the mortgage hunting gators and ducks. Always an option and while a small part of our specific group, it is a portion.
I recently shared via social media the fact that my wife was successful in this year’s first period gator tag lottery. Hopefully she takes me (gotta be extra nice till August), as it’s something that is going to a very special and exciting day for her. You know, I had a person I call a close friend that was extremely agitated with me that I would go hunt an alligator? They asked why I couldn’t buy my meat from farm raised stock, and leave those wild gators alone. In the conversation, I realized that their mind was made up, as was mine, and the best we could do was agree to disagree. Ten years ago would any of you thought you would get grief over harvesting a gator?
Don’t think that just because you take a fishing pole and not a shotgun that you’re excluded. It’s starting to spill more and more over to our world as well. I recently saw where a young man fishing in Naples was cited for catching a shark from the Naples Pier. Now they have a ban on sharks coming on the pier, and its city property, their pier, their rules. I am good with that, but in reading all the comments by citizens of the area demonizing this young man for catching a shark, I saw the same mob as I see in the gorilla incident or the Cecil the Lion issue from last year. More and more it’s becoming more accepted to vilify and demonize the hunter or fisherman who is acting within the law and chooses to harvest a legal fish or game animal.
There is nothing wrong with conservation and protection of the resource. This is what the Florida Guides Association was founded on and for. We are doing our part to ensure that as future generations hit the water, start their guide business or take their families for a day out fishing the stocks are healthy and abundant……for them to catch and release if they choose, or harvest for a meal. Whatever they personally desire and to each their own.
I saw a few days ago, a video of a fishing team that harvested a pretty big grouper, can’t remember exactly where it was caught, or if it was a Warsaw, or black or gag. Really doesn’t matter, what does was it was an outstanding catch for an angler and I believe a tournament winning fish. They were being crucified by their fellow sportsman for harvesting the fish, for daring to bring a legal to harvest fish home to weigh in and eat, because it was big and according to a great many folks comments “earned the right to live”. This, folks is a bad bad manner to go down. Beliefs are a varied as the winds that blow around the seas, and while one person thinks a snook should never be harvested, another feels the same about a permit, another cherishes reds and on and on and on.
Fish, game, and animals are here for a purpose. No one disagrees when I ask if the gazelle was put in place for the lion, or the rabbit for the hawk, or the fly for the spider. It’s an accepted thing that these creatures are here to provide food for the predators. That’s their role and whole purpose of existence. The lion owes its life to gazelle for without it, the mighty apex predator could not survive.
Why are more and more people we encounter starting to get iffy on humans role in regards to fish and animals? We must do all we can to make sure we are good stewards and keepers of the lands and seas. Groups such as the FGA, CCA, SGF and many others are doing just that. Doing our part to promote conservation and love of the wild things to ensure that our kids, and our kid’s kids have the opportunities we have.
But folks, don’t beat up your fellow sportsman for harvesting something that is perfectly legal to bring home. Teach your kids the role of humans and animals and how all must exists in unity to ensure each thrives. Give thanks to that deer, or trout, or chicken or cow for that matter that provides the meal for you and your family. And above all, if a human is in danger, do what’s necessary so that a young boy has a chance at a life. Weep for the gorilla after you take the shot. Simple stuff.
Thanks for reading. Remember this is my personal ramblings and I always encourage feedback, agree or disagree, all are welcome. Yall have a great June and we will chat again in July.