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 Chance to Educate
One of the best parts of being a charter boat captain is the opportunity to meet so many new and interesting people on an almost daily basis. I have always found it unique to our industry that we can shake hands as strangers in the wee morning hours before our departure, and return as old friends, having forged our new relationship during the day as we pursued the days target species. How many other industries can say that statement? Strangers to many time’s lifelong friends in 8 hours or less is pretty remarkable. We are in the entertainment business and share a passion with our customers each day that is often not the case in most other service and entertainment industries.
With that unique bond comes a unique opportunity, the ability to speak the same language with our guest of the day and have a real chance to educate on how to be a better fisherman, how to make the most of the day and the importance of conservation. It’s this last one that I want to talk on for this months “From the Crow’s Nest Piece.”
How many of my professional captain friends have customers come on the boat each day that judge the trip by the amount of fish in the fish box or on the cleaning table? I know I do, heck many times that’s the topic of conversation on the phone as we book the trip. A lot of this I think, is natural competiveness and human nature. More is always better right!
You know I wonder if we have all had a direct impact in this more is better mentality as it relates to sport fishing. Recently I saw a charter boat over in the Louisiana area post a picture on social media with a banner days catch. Multiple anglers with limits of a variety of species added up to an insane amount of fish harvested and made for a darn good picture. I know that I am personally guilty of having a big day on the sheepshead, or Spanish macs and posting a picture of a full fish box, and overflowing cleaning table, especially early on in my fishing career. It’s an exciting day for a new captain, and we want to show our potential customers that we can find the fish. What an easy way to do it!!
Now in both these two examples, no laws were broken, no rules were bent and I can’t say I will never post the “hero” shot in the future. But I am now starting to wonder if the pictures I post of the big catches help further that belief that a great days fishing must have a full cooler and overflowing cleaning table? For years that has been the example that our clients have seen us share as we advertise our businesses and talk about success on the water. It’s the pictures that are on the walls in the old fishing lodge or at the sporting goods stores we all shop at.
Have you ever looked at those old pictures showing a few 100 plus pound tarpon hanging on the hooks for proud anglers back in the day? What would be the conversation if that same picture was posted to social media today? The fact that we are finally in 2016 holding our game fish in much higher regards is a wonderful thing. But what about our wonderful reef, bottom and table fare fish? I wonder when/if it will change that taking a picture of a full limit of bottom fish being bad juju? My hope is that if that day ever comes, it’s not due to the fact that we have horribly overfished the resource with our “more is better mentality”.
There is nothing wrong with being proud of a successful day on the water. And as I said before, no laws are broken to showcase days like I am talking about. I will never berate my fellow sportsman for these pictures personally. We are brothers and sisters of the sport we are all so passionate about and to berate or belittle my fellow sportsman over personal opinions and beliefs only causes more division in a time and age when unity is so very important.
I instead will use the opportunity on the boat deck each day to education my guest about the importance of self-moderation as we harvest fish we catch. I will be conscious of the fact that when I post pictures of an overflowing table I am continuing the cycle of that being the mark of a successful day. And I will try to instill to my for hire friends about the opportunity we have to teach the guest we have aboard each day about the importance of our actions today effecting our fisheries into the future.
All this is just food for thought, and as I said, there will never be a time I will berate my fellow sportsman on being proud of a successful day. There is way too much of that going on right now, but that’s a topic for next months “From the Crow’s Nest”. Y’all have a great month and as always we enjoy your comments on our articles.