The older we get, the more important – and attractive – the good ol’ days become. I love reminiscing about being a teenager who lived on a lake, kept a horse at her family’s home and could ride alone through woods and swamps without fear of lurking psychopaths.
And fishing, it was so easy. Bait everywhere. Catching… really, you could call it catching.
Ok, some of that is hyperbole. We tend to remember only the best times. But few would argue that 30 to 40 years ago, life had simpler dimensions, and natural resources certainly seemed ample enough to last indefinitely.
But while we may pine for those days, there’s never any going back – sociologically, technologically or piscatorially. We have so many more people. We have so many more houses and seawalls. We use so much better gear and electronics. And all that rests on top of heavily pressured fish stocks, complicated regulations, rigid attitudes, underfunding and underenforcement.
Is anecdotal historic perspective a total wash, then? No. Before stock assessments, there were eyes and ears. Scientists can extrapolate by using fancy formulas (voo-doo to some folks), but early photos, logs and reports can help. Ditto current information.
Anglers and captains who spend hours on the water do have valuable opinions and information. However, all of us need to remember that our own personal experience – no matter how vast or constant we believe it to be – is limited. It’s no match to the breadth of a fish’s actual range and offers no definitive answer to the many variables of fish reproduction and biology.
Bottom line: There are no easy answers or resolutions to overfishing. But we can offer testimony, provide log information, supply carcasses, tag fish and return tags to researchers. We can play an active role in fisheries recovery, but we need to listen and study before we speak, and keep the needs of the fish ahead of our own.