Fishing is all about friendships and storytelling. So it's no wonder website forums became instantly popular as bragging boards and informational highways. Forums remain a positive venue for many anglers, but more and more I see online fishing communication flourishing at social networking sites.
The two most popular such sites currently - Twitter and Facebook - operate differently but both can be accessed via computer or a portable device like a cell phone or iPod. I find Twitter great for keeping up with announcements from fishing advocacy groups (CCA, The Billfish Foundation), fishery managers (South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission), and industry retailers (Costa Del Mar, Cabela's, LL Bean, Bass Pro, Navionics).
Facebook gives me more personal interaction with friends and acquaintances in the industry. I quickly learn about and see pictures (sometimes uploaded on the spot via cell) from hot tuna bites in the Northeast and salmon runs in the Northwest; several of our regular freelancers post their weekly photo portfolios - all without the semi-anonymous banter rampant in some forums. That's because I can pick my contacts on Facebook and Twitter.
I do limit my "friends" to people with whom I've previously communicated or worked. That's for safety's sake, and because Facebook is like one continuous party line. Yeah, sometimes someone gets an itch to rant, but I can hide those comments from my news feed.
Twitter limits messages to a certain number of characters; photos only appear as links to their original source. There's also no real outlet for public spewing. What you get is nice, neat volleys of info to keep up with a host of fishing-related entities.
Sport Fishing has both forum (http://forums.sportfishingmag.com/) and social-networking presence (http://twitter.com/SportFishingMag and http://www.facebook.com/SportFishing). Our forums are chock-full of great information and insights from our editors and other anglers, and if you feel like espousing a cause, go right ahead.
Our Twitter and Facebook pages have just ramped up, but that's where we'll publicize new website content and photo contest information, link to these biweekly enewsletters, and share other tidbits from the fishing world and our own backyards.
Of course, the web never will eclipse magazines for pleasurable reading and beautiful photography, but with social networking, now we can stay on top of breaking information, buy gear on sale, and find hot bites before we plan a fishing weekend.