Debate: Gaffing Fish & Catch and Release

Wow, it has been an unfortunate amount of time since I have been able to sit down and write. Even now, I am at my office waiting for my boss to get out of a meeting and the desk I normally sit as it occupied by our accountant so I am sitting on the steps, computer in lap, feet on the magazines in front of me.

Truth be told, I have been in such a transitional period of my life between moving into a new house, spending time focused on my relationship (which is still relatively new) and working two jobs which literally occupies my attention seven days a week.

For those of you that don’t know, I am currently working for Hogy Lure Company which is a lure manufacturing company based out of Falmouth, Mass. where I recently moved to. On top of that, I still mate for my dad on the Columbia where we run sportfishing charters out of Rock Harbor, located in Orleans, Massachusetts. This I have been doing for six seasons now.

You know you’re getting too old for a job when the new generation of mates are between 13/14-years old. This will be my last summer with him, which is both sad and exciting at the same time. I might work weekends depending on what I’m doing for work a year from now. I hope to be with the same company (Hogy) as I truly enjoy my co-workers and the work that I do.

So, let’s jump into it.

There has always been controversy surrounding the tactics and methods of those within the fishing community, long before I became apart of it. Keep in mind that these following thoughts stem from my short 7-8 years of experience both as a first mate and now through my involvement with Hogy Lures and Salty Cape. I have noticed two common discussions arise through our social media posts on all accounts (Hogy, Salty and Columbia):

  1. Gaffing a fish vs. Netting a fish
  2. Catch and release vs. Keeping fish

And of course, there’s the unfortunate individuals who feel the need to message me directly about my practices and techniques, as if being a jerk in my DM’s is going to either change or influence how I work.

Let me be very, very blunt with you for a minute; messaging someone privately about something you disagree with, especially when you attack them because they do it differently than you, is rude. No ifs, ands or buts about it.

Now, don’t get me wrong, everyone is entitled to their opinion but when you cross the line from a friendly discussion into personally attacking an individual or a business platform because you don’t like how they operate… No.

Gaffing a Fish vs. Netting a Fish

Before we get into this discussion, GAFFING A FISH IN MASSACHUSETTS IS LEGAL IF IT IS 28-INCHES+ AND YOU DO NOT ALREADY HAVE YOUR LIMIT OF ONE FISH PER PERSON. I do not know the laws and regulations of other states, but this is something I frequently hear when our business and our ethics are questioned. I can not speak for the rest of the states, but since we are located in Massachusetts and fish in Massachusetts waters, this is relevant to your knowledge.

That’s it. That should be the end of the discussion but regardless of the law, there are some people who still try to force their use of a net on you, as if their opinions are stronger than the laws put in play by policy holders, law makers and scientists.

I understand why people choose to use a net and I see no problem with it. But I also see no problem with using a gaff and let me explain why:

For starters, these are my personal opinions based on knowledge I have already obtained via personal experience.

When I am recreational fishing (going out for fun, enjoying the sport) I don’t use either a net or a gaff. I use my hands, unhook the fish, maybe snap a picture and release it as quickly as possible.

If I am choosing to use a net, which I have done countless times when fishing with Rob, it is for safety purposes both of the fish and to prevent myself from falling into the water while reaching for the fish.

When I use a gaff, and this is important, there are a few things you need to understand.  The first being, I work on a charter boat – for those of you that don’t know, charter fishing is both different from recreational fishing (for fun, for sport) and commercial fishing (to sell to markets). When charter fishing, Coast Guard allows up to six individuals to board the boat, plus the captain and the mate (8 overall). We are allowed to keep up to one fish per person, meaning we are LEGALLY allowed to have eight fish on the boat that are 28-inches or larger. The people who charter fishing boats like ours are fishing to keep, meaning they want fish to bring home to their families and their friends, to have for dinner, to make into a fish chowder, to freeze for a couple of months down the road. Whatever the reason may be, they want to bring fish home.

In this scenario, I always ask the groups when the board the boat, “Do you guys want fish to bring home?” And if they say yes, we fish to bring home. This is where the gaff comes into play – let me ask you, why wouldn’t you gaff a fish if you were planning on bringing it home and eating it? The gaff serves a variety of purposes – the most important being that it makes sure we get the fish in the boat. Since most people want to bring fish home, it does not matter if the fish is injured during the gaffing process because it is going to die either way. THAT BEING SAID, WE DO NOT GAFF FISH THAT WE ARE NOT BRINGING HOME. Even if the fish is legal, I will lift it over the back of the boat, unhook it and release it properly.

That’s all I have to say about gaffing. My final note being, before you judge someone and attack someone on their personal tactics, methods and techniques, PLEASE familiarize yourself with the states laws and regulations before taking time out of your day to approach someone for simply abiding by state laws. If you are going to attack someone because you disagree with this, your energy is probably best spent emailing those who put these laws into play in the first place.

Lastly, there is nothing wrong with either method. Whether you choose to gaff a fish or net a fish, make sure you are doing it responsibly and in the best interest of the fish. Simply, if you are not keeping the fish, do not gaff it. If you are keeping the fish, be sure that it is 28-inches+.

Catch and Release vs. Keeping Fish

There are laws put in place for a reason. And I can assure you, those of us who charter fish, recreational fish and commercial fish abide by them. Let’s run down the laws really quickly.

Recreational Fishing: One fish per person, 28-inches+. Cannot charter paying customers without a license, cannot sell fish without a license. You must apply and test for these licenses.

Charter Fishing: One fish per person on the boat, 28-inches+. Must have a license to charter paying customers. You must test for this license. Commercial license not required. If you have a commercial license and are also a charter fishing captain, it is illegal to catch commercial fish with the intent to sell on a paid charter.

Commercial Fishing: 15 fish per boat, 34-inches+. You must have a license to sell these fish. You must apply for this license. You are limited to 25lbs. per day. Monday and Thursday are the designated commercial fishing days.

These are the laws, put into play by law makers and policy holders. Why someone would try to argue the law based on their personal opinion is beyond me, but to each their own.

I have had countless messages from individuals messaging me, again verbally attacking me for what our family business does. They say things like, “you’re killing all the fish,” and “you’re the reason there’s no bass in Cape Cod Bay.” I even had someone go as far as saying “How dare you kill fish in my waters.”

Buddy, the ocean doesn’t belong to you. He then went on to argue that the “shore fishing isn’t what it used to be” while proceeding to tell me that “fishing from a boat isn’t real fishing.” That’s a joke if I’ve ever heard one.

Let’s jump right into it then. Simply put, these specific laws are put into play by scientists and analysts who have studied the migratory patterns of striped bass from their spawning season, through their spring run into their fall run and back into estuaries, streams, rivers, etc. to spawn again. Do people honestly think that these regulations would be allowed if these fish were endangered?

It’s one thing if it’s your personal opinion to catch and release, good for you, I suppose you think you are morally and ethically better than those who do not, but that doesn’t make us wrong because again, we follow the laws put into play by those who are actually educated on the subject.

Your experience on the water does not make you an expert.

Your personal opinions do not make you an expert.

Your personal practices do not make you an expert.

Honestly, if you haven’t studied and analyzed the increase/decrease of the striper population in both New England and the Cape Cod area in specific, you are not an expert.

This doesn’t make me an expert either.

But what I can tell you based on keeping up with these studies is that the striper population has increased greatly from the 1980’s and is being maintained, while increasing, well into our current era.  I can tell you that there are more schools of schoolie-sized fish in Cape Cod Bay than there have been in years. I can also tell you that the Great White Shark population probably has a lot to do with the scarcity of legal-sized fish in the area.

And adding to that, those of you that take the time to actually argue tooth and nail with me about us killing fish and ruining the population, I hope you realize that the fish are migrating, and Cape Cod Bay is just a stop on their list. Not seeing a lot of decent sized fish in the bay? That’s because they are moving north, as animals often do when they migrate. They have almost entirely moved out of the bay and should be showing up in Maine any day now if they haven’t already. That doesn’t mean they are extinct or endangered or that we are killing them, it simply means they have moved out of the area.

Again, I reiterate, if you are going to argue the logistics of the laws with anyone, it should be with a letter or an email to the law makers and policy holders. We abide by the STATE LAWS and I know some people think their opinions are more important than the laws, but they’re not.

Practice your catch and release, use your nets, have your opinions but please, respect local businesses and trust that we are simply following the rules and doing our jobs. You don’t agree with it? That’s on you. But being disrespectful and rude because of your own presumptions and disagreements simply won’t solve anything. If anything, it’ll create enemies and annoyances towards your fellow fisherman.

Links for Reference:

https://www.mass.gov/service-details/recreational-saltwater-fishing-regulations

https://www.mass.gov/service-details/learn-about-striped-bass

https://www.mass.gov/service-details/commercial-finfish-regulations

https://www.dragonflysportfishing.com/state-federal-catch-limit/

https://www.onthewater.com/massachusetts-enacts-striped-bass-conservation-regulations

 

 

 

 

 

Saying Goodbye to Field Trips

Per my last post, I know I have left a lot of you with unanswered questions to my unanswered thoughts. Rob and I originally had agreed to wait until he was back from his trip to Australia to announce the new development to Field Trips but after our recent conversation, he said he would be OK with me discussing it.

As many of you have asked and guessed, Rob and I have amicably decided to split ways. Although it definitely saddens me to no longer be a part of Field Trips, I know at the end of the day that this is best for both of us.

Nothing specific happened to spark this decision. I spoke in past posts about our difference in work ethics and how, although we operate differently, it works well. But, the more time we worked together, the more different our motivations had become. I found myself feeling really lost and unmotivated and of course, I can’t speak for him, but I’m sure he sensed that my demeanor was beginning to change.

I do think Panama is where I realized it the most. My time there was truthfully so eye-opening and although I was left with a lot of frustration and confusion, I really had the time of my life in the moments that I felt I could be myself. From the gorgeous sunrises on the black sand beaches, to the abundance of fresh fruit and fresh fish that we were blessed with, down to the people from all walks of life that I was lucky enough to meet and share this experience with, Panama was a trip I will never forget.

I spoke briefly about what took place while I was there and I tried to keep it as vague as possible because I don’t want to talk badly about anyone or anything, but at the end of the day, it’s not the business. It’s not the company. It’s not any one person. Nothing specific happened to make me feel the way that I felt. It was a lot of little things combined that made me feel as though I really didn’t belong there.

But all of that aside, I met the most amazing groups of people. My first week there was for the Kayak Fishing World Championship where we had guys from all over the world (The United States, Canada, Singapore, Switzerland, Australia, Germany, Costa Rica). Talk about a rowdy group of men. I am so used to the rambunctious personalities of competitive men so it was almost comforting to be surrounded by these guys every day.

The stories, the memories, the personalities, the knowledge — I wouldn’t trade any of it. All of them were so kind and humble, so encouraging and welcoming, so knowledgeable and skilled in their own tricks and trades. I can only hope I made the positive impact on them that they made on me.

As for my second week there, we had people from the United States, Canada and Ireland. I can not speak more highly of this group of people. It was definitely a different dynamic from the first group as many of these guys (both men and women) weren’t nearly as experienced as the guys we had the week before. But they all knew what they were doing and more importantly, they all knew how to fish. Even the other Jamie, who had never been in a kayak before, kicked ass out on the water battling swells and strong fish.

The guys from Ireland were some of the funniest people I’ve met. But forget it when they start drinking. It’s nearly impossible to understand them. I asked myself so many times, are they speaking English right now? But the beer kept pouring and the conversation kept flowing.

As for Rob and me, I don’t think I could say anything bad about him if I tried. I’m definitely sad my time on the road has come to an end and if I had the chance to do it over, I know what I would change. But thankfully, I am young and will have the opportunity to start over in another career where I will carry his advice and knowledge with me.

To take a chance on a complete stranger, like he did with me, is not something a normal person would do. But Rob is far from normal (in the best ways) and I was really lucky to have him as a boss and a roommate and can absolutely call him one of my life-long friends. Sure, we had our disagreements here and there and we both had issues with one another at certain times. But he gave me a chance when I needed one the most. He made my dreams of travelling come true and fed my passion for fishing.

I remember many of our conversations, most of them leaning towards the passion to change people’s lives and I can honestly say, Rob changed mine. I leave the RV with nothing but gratitude and respect for Rob.

I had visions of us taking over the world and one day having our own TV show about our travels and fishing adventures, but nothing ever goes as planned. And that’s OK. When one door closes, another door opens. And I can’t wait to see what the future holds for me. This internship gave me a taste of the possibilities I can make out of my life and even though I’m not much of a self-starter, I know I have a lot to offer to another business/employer.

Moral of my time on the road: You have the power to make the life you have always dreamed of having. Take a chance on yourself and others will take the chance with you, too. Believe in yourself, challenge yourself, push yourself. The outcome may not be what you thought, but you will learn so much on the journey. And the journey is the most important part; not the destination.

I don’t know my destination, but what fun is life if you do?

Unanswered Thoughts

The more time I spend away from my pen and paper (in this case, my computer and my keyboard) the more scattered and lost my thoughts become.

I took a class in high school at a local college on writing and one of the first exercises we did at the beginning of the course was writing for two minutes straight. The first thoughts that popped into our head. The most random of thoughts. The rules: our pens couldn’t leave the paper and we couldn’t pause to think. No thinking, just writing.

I think I’m going to begin this post the same way we began our classes. Don’t think, just write.

Go.

There are so many things I have in my head. So many things I want to write about but I don’t even know where to start. I’m babysitting the puppy this week. She is the sweetest little thing but she is so vocal. Constantly barks and cries when you’re not paying attention to her but the biggest snuggle monster. I want a puppy of my own one day. I have my dog now but he is a family dog, he isn’t MY dog. But before I can even think about getting a puppy, I have to think about moving out and to think about moving out, I have to think about a more stable income. Things I want to talk about but things I won’t be able to say for another couple of weeks. Panama came and went. That was an experience, one I’ll probably write about in the coming weeks as well. Or maybe today. Who knows. 

I’m sure after getting through my jumbled mess of thoughts, you have a lot of questions. What am I not able to write about yet? Well, I guess you have to wait and see. As for Panama, it was good and bad in a lot of ways. I left feeling very unwelcome and maybe that was something I brought on myself but I have a feeling it was something else entirely. And that all came to light in the following days after returning home.

I remember telling my mom a couple of days in, even if I was invited to go back to Los Buzos, I don’t think I would go. It’s hard for me to write negative things about a person or a business that has done so much for me, especially when I was there out of someone else’s pocket but man, I have never felt so out of place in my entire life. And that’s no ones fault but the dynamic was weird and as the first group left and the second group arrived, it became worse for me.

I’m not the only one who felt it. There were members of the second group who felt the same way about the situation but I ended up taking the brunt of it because A) I am a female and B) I wasn’t paying to be there. So I faced a lot of skepticism, a lot of sexism and just a lot of belittling my entire time there. I really felt like I had no place being there. I often found myself wondering out loud, what the f*ck am I here for?

That being said, those who paid were treated as they should have been. Those who did not pay (me) were not treated so great by individuals who I will not name.

One night I remember specifically, I ended up separating myself from the group and sitting down to write. I’ll share it, I guess. I would like to share more of my authentic writing like this, but I fear judgement.

January 15, 2019 at 8:47 p.m. (Pizza Night Week Two): I wish I could pinpoint exactly how I feel. It’s like the words don’t want to flow from my mouth that is always so fluid in the worst moments. I can’t seem to relate to those I am surrounded by but maybe it’s who I choose to surround myself with, as if I have a choice in most situations. I stare at my reflection and although I recognize myself, I don’t recognize who I have become. I feel like I’m constantly waiting for something to change but am I making conscious choices to change it? As if i know what IT is.

Loneliness sneaks up on me at the strangest times, when I’m surrounded by like-minded people with common interests, rooms filled with strangers that pay no mind to me. Why am I here. I long for recognition and appreciation and I pick apart my flaws when others around me have what I lack. A fluidity, an acceptance, a recognition, a light. I fear mine is dark. I fear no one will understand the depths of my mind in the way that I long to be understood. I fear no one will see me for what I contain, rather than for what I lack. 

I am surrounded by empty voices, voids of people speaking and breaking the muffled silence I am caught up in. Bits of their conversations slip into my head and I jump from voice to voice, clinging to something I can connect with. But I am stuck in the silence. My own silence that I have created. The words won’t form on my bland palette. I choke on my silence, I choke on my breath. I wish I could spit it out onto the plate in front of me. The voices fade once more and I am lost again with the stars above. Floating through my mind like satellites in space, waiting to discover my light. 

[Cue panic attack]

I don’t have much to say about that. Much like Forrest Gump when he finished a story and effortlessly glided into the next one. I finish one train of thought and effortlessly fall into an abyss of similar thoughts that have no place in my head. But they’re there anyways. Regardless, I needed this loneliness to discover the clarity I have been seeking. I needed to panic and write and isolate myself in order to see the dynamic of the situation as clearly as I see it now.

I have never belonged. And maybe most look at that as a weakness, but I have chosen to see it as a strength. Maybe because I have no choice but maybe because it makes me unique. When I am in a group of people, listening to them discuss their days and their experiences, I am often struck with the feeling that no one is being authentic with their words and I zone out. I mentally remove myself from the situation and let my mind wonder to places they don’t often go because I am rarely alone.

And sure, it pains me more often than not to feel like I’m not understood but I don’t feel as though anyone has truly tried to understand me. I’m not even sure I understand myself most days but it’s moments like these, moments like those, that I begin to see myself even more. Even if none of my words make sense in the moment they’re being thought, they often make sense later after I’ve had time to reflect.

This blog has no agenda. This blog has no theme. Much like my life and my thoughts. If we did the same thing every day with the same mentality, there would be no growth. And I find that growth often stems from the most uncomfortable or painful situations. Not saying Panama was either of those adjectives, but it definitely was a place where I was not comfortable and felt more like I was being tolerated rather than accepted.

That’s not a feeling I ever wish to feel again, which is why my removal from certain situations has been warranted, accepted and even appreciated as it now gives me time to focus on myself and my own future rather than someone else’s.

More to come soon.