There’s been some tension of late within our salty community. On the one hand, you have captains and crews complaining about “Internet” and “El Nino” anglers. The narrative goes, “You spoiled El Nino anglers have an inflated sense of your angling prowess.” The companion rant to this narrative is, “There’s this sense of entitlement among anglers these days. Unless the count is 100 yellowtail a trip, it’s not worth your time to go fishing.” Usually, these statements are followed up with some variation of, “Back in the old days, before the internet, before social media, before everyone claiming they’re pro staff this and pro staff that, we were happy to catch sandbass and barracuda in the summer.”
I understand the perspective. In my mind, we’re still enjoying awesome fishing. Maybe because I’m an outsider to some extent not having grown up here, I have a different frame of reference. When I got here from the Pacific Northwest in the early 90’s, I didn’t fish that much and when I did, I wasn’t very skilled at doing it. Now that I’ve developed the skills and acquired the right tools to have success most times out, it’s all good to me. I rarely caught fish growing up that pulled drag. To me, a halfie in the kelp pulling on bass with a shot at yellowtail is just as awesome as hooking into a big bluefin.
I’ve lived in and traveled to other parts of the country. There isn’t the diversity of fish, fishing environments, and myriad open party boat choices that we take for granted here. There are few places on earth where one can pay a fraction of the cost of renting a whole boat and crew for the day to get in on the fun. No other place has the live bait fishery we have as well. In other places, if you don’t have the scratch to drop a couple grand (or at least have some well off friends to share that cost with), or the resources to maintain and operate your own rig…well then you’re just sh*t out of luck to get on the ocean for a day of fishing.
I feel extremely fortunate to live here in Southern California and enjoy the salty lifestyle we lead.
That said, I don’t totally dismiss the El Nino anglers either. The long term health of sportfishing requires new blood. I think after 3 years of El Nino though – going on more trips than “normal”, and buying new gear to play on the field of the expanded fishing opportunities – a lot of folks are just tapped out. Real life catches up with reel life. Other obligations compete for share of wallet. Spouses and significant others might be holding the purse strings a little tighter for fishing. There’s a new calculus in play. If you don’t come home with fresh yellowtail AND there isn’t money to take the family out to dinner…you’re going to hear about it. Who wants that?
So where does that leave us?
For starters, I think everyone needs to take a step back, take a look in the mirror and take some responsibility for trying to improve the current tension. Captains and crews need to understand the new calculus and take ownership of providing the best possible angling experience for everyone that steps on a boat. Untangling lines and gaffing fish aren’t the limit of your role. Teach. If the load is light, take the time to go the extra mile and show people how pick a good bait and flyline it out. Have fun!
Show the people on the boat how to have fun. For the saltier of us on the boat, instead of just avoiding the newbs (and I’m as guilty as you are), show them how you are rigged up. Explain why it works better than a dropper loop. And for those of you new to the scene, realize that there is joy in fishing that doesn’t start with catching yellowtail. Fish more halfies. Learn from the everyone you can. Get better at casting. Learn what to look for on the water and what it means for fishing. Then when you get into a good opportunity, you’ll be positioned to really capitalize on it.
We’re all in this together. Good luck if you get out there!