Friday, October 6, 2017

Photos of dead fish should be a thing of past

Three oblivious charterboat anglers pose beside their bounty of dead fish lined up on the cleaning table at the dock.

I realize I'm not all that smart.

Perhaps that's why there are many things in life I don't understand.

Like meanness. Cruelty. Insincerity. Rudeness.
This fine redfish was photographed quickly, then released.

I don't understand why some people who enjoy the great outdoors don't respect it. They throw trash out of the windows of their vehicles. Cut across shallow, fragile grass flats in their boat, gashing out ugly prop scars with their outboards.

Daily, I see people driving down the road smoking cigarettes and flipping them out the window when they're done.

There's a common thread here: selfishness. They want to so therefore they do.

What's the big deal?

One of my pet peeves is photos of dead fish. I don't mean photos of fish killed by pollution, red tide or some other natural disaster.

I mean fish that have been caught by humans, deposited in an ice chest and then later hung up, lined up or held in front of a camera.
Actions photos are better options than dead fish.

In most cases, the fish corpses are colorless and stiff.

What I see when I view photos of these dead fish is people saying, "Hey, look at me. Look at what a big man I am. Look how many fish I killed."

It's all ego-driven.

While littering, destruction of natural resources and other acts are illegal, taking photos of dead fish is perfectly legal.

But here's the rub: Sometimes what legal isn't necessarily right. It could fall under the auspices of outdoor ethics. If you make your living off the great outdoors, then you have an ethical responsibility to respect it and protect it.

If you want to see what I'm talking about, you'll see it on most any social media if you have any outdoors friends. I see it all the time on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

I was a professional outdoors writer for 35 years. And over the last 25 years of my career, I did not use a photo of dead fish. That practice was quite common in outdoors publications around the country in prior to 1985. But it slowly changed over the years. And you'll rarely see a dead-fish photo in any reputable outdoors publication these days.

I like to think I was ahead of the game.

Just recently, I saw a photo on the Facebook page of a local charterboat guide. His party of three smiling anglers posed beside 14 dead spotted seatrout and two Spanish mackerel lined up stiff and colorless on a cleaning table at the dock.

I also saw two local charter guides in a photo on television each holding dead snook. The fish were long dead, stiff and had their throats slashed.

I am offended by these pictures. They make me sick. They show no respect whatsoever for the fish, fisheries or great outdoors.

Why in hell are people still focusing on catching and killing limits of fish? Some might argue that I am against people catching fish and taking them home to eat.

Not so.

I am against the philosophy that you have to kill all or the majority of legal fish you catch.

It doesn't make much sense. It especially doesn't make economical sense. You pay $700 for an all-day charter to take home five pounds of filets. Care to figure out how much that 80 ounces fish flesh costs you?

If eating fish is the main goal, save the charter money and take your significant other out to a fine seafood restaurant.

You'll come out way ahead.

With that in mind, I don't mind if an angler wants to take a fish or two home. No big deal. But rather than posing with a fish corpse back at the dock, take a photo of the fish right after the catch while it's alive and vibrant.

I was watching an outdoors show on television recently where the host and guest were fishing for redfish in shallow water. They did pretty well, too.

They released most of the fish, but kept a 25-incher.

"That one's going in the skillet," the host grinned as he lifted the lid to the color and dropped the red in.

That didn't have to be in the video. It could have been edited out and no one would have be the wiser.

One practice that really annoys me is gaffing. I watch fishing shows on TV and they'll stick a gaff in a large fish, then haul it aboard. We as viewers have to watch as the fish struggles and bleeds.

I don't watch many fishing shows any more (especially those who seem to delight in killing fish), but sometimes you can't avoid it.

I'm just amazed at the number of dead-fish photos I see today. They're on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other media.

They annoy the crap out of me. I hope you feel the same way?

There are many things that were common practice 40 or 50 years ago that aren't cool today.

Some day photos of dead fish will be a thing of the past.

I certainly hope so.

We survived Irma and even got out a few times to catch fish

The author lands a nice peacock bass on fly rod while fishing a small lake near Naples. (Photo by John Weimer)

We are alive and well after Hurricane Irma. The nasty storm devastated a good portion of Florida.

Irma did heavy damage in the Florida Keys, Chokoloskee, Everglades City, Marco Island and Naples. When she hit the Keys, Irma was a Category 5 storm. She was still quite a bitch when she hit Chokoloskee and Everglades City.

Fortunately for our area, Irma moved inland and started to lighten up a bit. She was a Category 1 hurricane as she passed Sarasota.

Kathy and I evacuated the Wednesday prior. Our thinking was that if we waited, we might not be able to get out because of traffic and a lack of fuel. Still, it took us 18 hours to get to Atlanta, a drive that normally takes about eight hours.

We stayed until the following Wednesday, and we weren't certain we could back then. Even though it had been three days since Irma wreaked havoc on Florida, there was little gas available along Interstate 75, and the traffic reportedly was terrible.

I decided to take U.S. 19 back.

Good decision.

We had no problem finding gas. And traffic was light along the way. It took 14 hours to get home, but I think it was quicker than it would have been on I-75.

When we got home, we had a lot of debris in the yard, but no damage. Even our electricity was on!
I did get out fishing a few times in September. I spent a day around Buttonwood Harbor on the west side of Sarasota Bay and did well. I started fishing a couple of hours before daylight and targeted snook around dock lights. I caught and released five snook to 30 inches on my Gibby's Snook Shrimp.

At daylight, I paddled to Redfish Key where I encountered several schools of mullet -- normally a good sign for redfish.

However, redfish have been scarce for the past year or so around Buttonwood Harbor. So you can imagine my surprise when I hooked into a feisty red. I knew it was larger than average, but we impressed when it measured 32 inches.

I paddled north to Crabclaw Key and caught three more reds on five casts. They were all 27 inches or larger.

After that, I targeted spotted seatrout to complete my Slam. In addition, I landed bluefish, ladyfish and mangrove snapper.

John Weimer of Sarasota accompanied me on a trek south to Naples where we hoped to target peacock bass and large Mayan cichlid. We did well. We caught six big Mayans to 15 inches, six bluegill to 12 inches and eight peacock bass to 17.

We caught the bluegill and Mayan cichlid on popping bugs and Gibby's Snymphs under a strike indicator. We caught all of the peacock bass on chartreuse-and-white and olive-and-white Clouser Deep Minnows.

It will be interested to see what the look likes like following Hurricane Irma.

I fished Fort DeSoto on a shark trip and had fair success. I landed four small blacktip shark on ladyfish chunks. I'm hoping to get back up there soon and try catching a shark on a fly rod.

John Weimer and I fished Lake Manatee late in the month and caught 43 mostly hand-sized bluegill, a nice speckled perch and a 6-pound channel catfish. We used popping bugs and Gibby's Snymphs.

Interestingly enough, I caught most of my fish, including the speck and channel cat, on my new TFO Finesse .5-weight fly rod.

OCTOBER FORECAST: Should be great. October is the best month of the year as far as weather goes. Not too hot. Not too cold. Just right. In salt water, I anticipate good action on snook, spotted seatrout and redfish around Sarasota Bay. I predict Buttonwood Harbor and Little Sarasota Bay to be the hot spots. There also should be some good action off Stephens Point. I like to fish southern Tampa Bay this time of year.  Snook, spotted seatrout, redfish and flounder will be the featured fish. Shark, jack crevalle and ladyfish should also make their presence known. In fresh water, I anticipate good action on bluegill, bass and channel catfish in local lakes. Further south, I anticipate good action on peacock bass, Mayan cichlid, largemouth bass and bluegill.
Looks as if the fall is shaping up to be for great fishing. I'm starting to book up, so get in touch and secure your outing.
Call me at (941) 284-3406 or email

Steve Gibson
Southern Drawl Kayak Fishing