By: Captain Joe Cacaro
I am quite certain that a great many of you
have been following the strident efforts being made to save and conserve
our marine resources. While strenuous attempts have been made in an
effort to preserve these resources, few have been successful. One of
the most challenging stumbling blocks in the conservation effort is the
division between recreational anglers and commercial fisherman. The
problem, as many believe, does not lie with one group or the other - -
both groups are at fault.
Most commercial fishermen abide by the
rules, as do most recreational anglers; however, both groups have
offenders among their ranks. It is simply that when a commercial
fisherman exploits a resource, it has a vastly greater effect than when a
recreational angler does so.
What amazes me most about the "Great
Divide" between the two groups is that they are all part of the same
group - - - fishermen. We all love to fish. We all love the
sights, sounds and yes, even the smells of fishing. None of us set
out to make millions by fishing. We began fishing because we loved
to fish. If fishermen, commercial and recreational alike would
simply take the time to rediscover the how's and why's of their fishing
roots, I am certain they would realize it had very little to do with money
or a desire to abuse our marine resources. Maybe it was a fishing
trip with a family member, a friend, or even a solo endeavor, but whatever
the case may be, we developed a passion for all the things that make
fishing what it is to us. Maybe you began to love the feel of your
line coming tight and setting the hook. Maybe it was the sensation
caused by that first reel-burning run or head-shaking jump. Or maybe
it was just the strategy involved in trying to outwit your quarry.
More than likely it was a combination of the many different sensations and
feelings awakened by that proverbial "first fish" that ignited
and fueled this passion. I know this because I have witnessed it
Through being a recreational angler, a mate
and now a captain, I have experienced the joy of helping people from all
walks of life catch their first fish. For me, it is a feeling second
to none in the angling world. When an angler fights and lands his
first "nice" fish, he is ecstatic as well as overwhelmed.
At this point, congratulations take place and many anglers desire to take
their fish back to the dock, but with the heightened awareness of the
threat to our marine resources, many choose not to kill the fish, opting
for a photograph instead. As for those anglers who aren't sure
whether or not to keep their catch, a quick explanation of the state of
our marine resources usually convinces them to only keep what they will
For some of us however, this passion
becomes tainted by greed of one form or another and we begin to abuse what
we once held tremendous respect for. I can tell you first hand that
is an easy trap to fall into. I began to keep all the fish I caught,
not because I needed them to eat, but because I wanted to impress fellow
fishermen back at the dock. At one time, this excessiveness was not
only accepted, it was applauded. Now, only after years of exhaustive
educational efforts by various groups (conservation organizations, fishing
clubs etc...) and outdoor magazines, has this trend begun to change.
Actions that once elicited stares of envy now receive scornful glares.
Hopefully, the strides we have made as
writers, captains, mates and recreational anglers to conserve and educate
others about conservation will continue. At this point I would like
to say that I have nothing against keeping fish. I only suggest that
you give sincere thought as to how many fish you need to take and what it
means to the overall resource.
Bear in mind that, although you may only go
fishing once a month, "filling your cooler" can only have a
detrimental impact on the environment. The recreational angler who
is a casual observer of the commercial vs. recreational issue may be under
the impression that all commercial fishermen are gluttonous and wasteful,
taking whatever they can get paid for. In some cases this is
true. I have personally witnessed mullet netters in the Ten Thousand
Island area killing Snook, Sea Trout, Redfish and various other
species. We must realize, however that they trying to make a living
and most know the resources must be given a chance to replenish themselves
if they are to continue to make their livelihood in this manner.
This is a key point.
If we can remember the love and respect we
had for that "first fish", we can try to treat all our marine
resources in the same manner. It is also my contention that many
recreational anglers believe that if the commercial fishermen take too
many fish, they can too. It just can't work that way.
Recreational anglers simply don't need that many fish. Just take
what you are certain you will eat. DO not keep fish with the
rationale that they will be killed by commercial fishermen anyway.
This presents us with one of the new
challenges the recreational angler should take head on and embrace. Simply
put, practice catch and release as much as possible. Don't keep
short fish and encourage your friends to do likewise. As our angling
careers progress, we must realize that these new challenges exist.
You don't need a full cooler to impress your friends. Bring a
camera. If we can all make a few small concessions in the name of
conservation and sportsmanship, we will be doing our part to save our sea
life. This, combined with immediate and proper legislation, will
ensure our marine resources a chance for survival. Just as every
recreational angler must do his/her part to conserve, so must the
commercial fishermen and we need the legislation to ensure this. As
fishermen, both commercial and recreational, we must reach back to our
past and try to recapture those memories of that "first fish" in
an effort to close the gap between us. With this in mind, we can
work together towards a solution to the exploitation of our oceans'