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Posted on Mar 8, 2011 in Top Shots
You Gotta Laugh!

You gotta laugh.

Well you don't have to. But it sure makes the day go better - IMHO of course.

Why do I have making merry on my mind?

For Sport Fishing readers, April Fools' Day comes early.

Everyone reading this blog who's been a loyal SF reader knows that we celebrate April 1 each year with some bit of inane if not insane nonsense in the April issue that I try to pass off as the real thing.

No matter how outrageous, it seems that some (and some years, many) readers get duped. Of course I always fess up in the magazine and/or via a website (often with a domain purchased just for that particular hoax), but not all readers make it that far.

It's generally obvious from the feedback we get - and we get feedback (which really makes this worthwhile!) - who got the joke and who didn't. Those who, at some point, figure out it's a hoax usually respond with the likes of, "You got me again this year, LOL!" Those who don't get it either come off bemused and trying to figure out what was the point or in some cases, simply irate.

While many of these April Fools' gags have produced lots of reaction and buzz, none tops that of a couple of years back: the Lone Star Bluewater Fishing Ranch off the Texas coast. That was a two-page advertisement for this facility with large pens, variously containing marlin and other billfish, bluefin tuna and more. Various packages would fly out anglers with very big bucks to fish from a convertible sport-fisher and guaranteed them action. The Old Man and the Sea package put the angler, alone in a small wooden skiff with a handline, into a pen with hungry grander marlin. Man, did we get calls and e-mails. Those who got the joke couldn't stop laughing. Those who didn't were outraged. How could you accept advertising like that? That's just wrong! That's like shooting fish in a barrel. And so on. Nearly all of those incensed came back with embarrassed laughter at their gullibility when we told them they'd been had.

One or two weren't good sports. While that's rare, one comes to mind from a number of years back - a gent who called and left a voicemail to tell us he didn't like being fooled. Just about every other word was unprintable - and we ran the letter verbatim except using {expletive deleted} (e.g. "You {expletive deleted}! That was not {expletive deleted}" and so on) throughout, which in itself was pretty funny.

Another classic that unexpectedly lived on for years after was from a bonus page of "news," sharing with readers a fairly convincing piece on a recent trend across college campuses in the Southeast: licking the slime on gafftopsail catfish to get a great high. A study purportedly just out from the University of Florida backed up the safe, hallucinogenic properties of catfish slime. Despite the separate disclaimer announcing this as an April Fools' joke, it entered viral mode and soon it was going all over ("Have you heard about this?"). I have to wonder how many kids actually ended up licking the slime off sea cats … they'd need to get high to forget that aftertaste!

So with all that in mind, when our advance copies of the April just came in a couple of days ago (though it will be at least midmonth before copies get into readers' hands), I started reminiscing about past April issues. I know a great many readers already pore through our April issue specifically to find the joke - rather like kids digging through the Crackerjack box to get at the toy. Of course I'll offer no hints about where it is this year or about what form it's taken. That's for you, readers, to discover. And as always, I'm looking forward to hearing from you after you do!