Little Fishes, Big Egos
By The Furious Foodie
How big an ego do you have to have to keep an undersized fish? And/or, how cheap do you have to be to insist that you catch something – anything – just because you’ve bought a day trip on a party boat?
We live in interesting times – a cliché but no less true for that. State your case and make your argument and it seems that half the people love you and half hate you. What happened to debate and the contradiction of an argument by the presentation of facts and opinions rather than personal abuse?
Well, I’m going to put out another couple of debating points in the hope that they will generate discussion rather than either slavish agreement or ad hominem attack:
We were anchored in Whites, one of the most beautiful of Catalina’s bays. No matter what the weather is elsewhere on the island, White’s seems to get the sunshine first and, unless the Santa Anas are blowing, it’s one of the most comfortable of all Channel Island anchorages, whether you’re on your own hook or a mooring.
We were pretty close in, experimenting with some unlikely food and wine pairings, when a party boat came into the anchorage, its decks lined with eager fishermen who had all ponied up for a day out on the water – and it looked like being a beautiful day, too.
The boat and its 40-odd rods and reels kept coming and kept coming, right into the anchorage, taking advantage of the fact that many of the moorings were vacant. We were surprised at how close it came but the sea, of course, is free and we don’t begrudge anyone their pleasures.
Unless they’re taking undersized and marginal fish.
And we were close enough to make that judgment, even without binoculars.
I’m the first to admit that we have no idea how many of these undersized or marginal calico bass were thrown back but I do know this – that not a one of them was worth keeping for eating.
And what other point is there to keeping the catch?
We don’t voyage to get all riled up. We do it simply for the love of it and so we returned to our food experiments and tried to ignore the second boat that arrived, …
… and the third …
… and the fourth.
Now there were over a thousand lines in the water and now it was time for the glasses.
Maybe one in ten of the catches were worth keeping from a culinary point of view. The rest was just sport or a question of getting one’s money’s worth for a day on a party boat.
Hard to point any fingers here, and that’s not my reason for ranting. Everyone wants value for their ticket and party boat skippers get paid to find fish. But don’t we need to reassess and revaluate? Hardly any of the fish we saw caught were worth photographing, leave alone worth keeping. We know a whole bunch of them were not released. And how many of them that were, survived?
So where does that leaves us?
“Fish?” Nemo snorts. “A bunch of Garibaldi but, for the rest of it, ya might as well open a sardine can. You get more and they’re bigger.”
I absolutely believe that the problem of fish conservation is not one of amateur fisherman over-fishing. By and large, in this country, we all understand that catch limits are vital. I hope, therefore, that the boats we saw and the fishermen on them were exceptions.
I hope that we can get to a place where spending a day on the water is pleasure enough – worth the price of a day ticket.
I hope that big egos don’t feed on small fish.
That way, the pleasures will continue forever.