Anatomy Of A Fishing Story

As a fisherman, you get to experience many amazing sights and events first hand. You also get to swap these experiences with fellow anglers in a ritual that is probably as old as speech itself. The “fishing story” comes in many forms. Some you can believe outright, while most of the others must be filtered for the truth.

Some are a matter-of-fact recount of the day, while others conjure up the sights, smells and sounds in your mind.

The good ones can get the teller’s heart rate up and give them goosebumps just reliving the tale with words.

The great stories are filled with adjectives that you won’t find in the dictionary. They are words that fishermen understand and leave the non-fisherman looking at you strangely. For example, “I gave the lure a twitch and “Boooshhh”, the fish struck. The drag went “zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz”, but the fish made it into the mangroves and the line went “powwwwww”. Then I said “@%$#$#@#*”. A fisherman knows exactly what I’m talking about, but a layman is thinking I’ve been in the sun too long.

My wife, whose fishing background involved Cheetos for bait in saltwater, has been immersed in the world of fishing for the last 20 years. When we first met, I was telling a fishing story and spoke of using 200-pound test leader. I thought nothing of it, and she was amazed that I could pick up such a heavy object. We take our lingo for granted and assume normal people know our jargon. She constantly reminds me that the person I just spoke to has no idea what I was saying. Translation is important because in the charter business we spend the day as a personal fishing coach for clients who may have never picked up a rod before. Not only are they in the fight of their life, but the captain is speaking in “tongues” as far as they’re concerned. We make it work in the end and fun is had by all.

I’ve never figured out why some people always have to exaggerate the truth, even when the truth was enough. They blow their credibility despite the fact that the plain truth was impressive in itself.

Now it also works the other way, if you don’t tell enough truth you can be labeled a “sandbagger”. For example, if you have your limit of three species and you tell your buddy the fishing is fair and you have a small handful.

Since most daily fishing talk is sent via the airways on the VHF radio, anyone with a scan button on their radio can listen to you talk to your fishing buddy. So over time, the charter fleet has learned to talk in code or relate their advice to past events that only a buddy would know. For example: “Where you at? “Is it working for you?”

The answer might be: I’m a little below that spot we got ’em last week by “so and so’s rock”. Got a few brown ones off a black one and a few slimys. Going to look for those other ones south of that spot we got ’em in the tournament that time when we saw those guys.

Sometimes we use so much “code” our buddies don’t know what the heck we are talking about. Now this covert transfer of information is required because if you put it out there in plain speak, you are going to have company from the radio fishers who are not big on etiquette. They will mow over your lines in a desperate attempt to catch a fish. I just had a buddy tell a story (imagine that). He was jigging for cobia over a ray on the bottom below his boat. Another yahoo pulled right up and a diver jumped in and swam under his boat to shoot the cobia he was trying to catch. He obviously had some choice words, but they fell upon obnoxious ears.

A big part of staying in tune with the current fishing scene is keeping an ear out for stories and filtering for the interwoven truths that might benefit your next trip. Storytelling is evolving as well, since now we just go to Facebook and watch the day unfold in pictures, even right up till the time it’s cooked and eaten. It used to be that by the time the fishing report came out in Sunday’s outdoor section of the paper, the fishing event was over. Now the story is instant and the desire to be the “man in the know” makes them tell all.

All in all, I’m sure the way a fishing story is transmitted will continue to evolve but the “art” of the fishing story is the same today as it was when one caveman grunted towards his drawing on the wall.

Capt. Scott Goodwin started fishing in the lakes of Kentucky where he grew up. A move to Florida, however, brought him into a whole new realm of fishing. After receiving a bachelor's degree in biology from Eckerd College, he decided that he liked catching fish more than studying them and thus began ...
  • Murray
  • Oct 23, 2019
Great article Scott!
  • Rebecca S
  • Oct 23, 2019
This article is so true and I love the way it is articulated. Being forwarded to so many of my friends who can relate, including my nephew who really knows how to tell a fishing ‘story’.
  • mike
  • Oct 24, 2019
Dude I love this! The ray photo is all time cool. Man u some kinda badass!