Several years ago, I served on a committee the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources convened to tackle the issue of technology and its impact on fishing.
Much of the discussion, as I recall, focused on whiz-bang electronics such as depth finders, underwater cameras and GPS maps that allow anyone to find sunken reefs and other fish-holding structures with ease.
Almost an afterthought at the time was a comment a member of the group made during one of the meetings:
Beware, he cautioned, of information technology that allows word of good fishing to spread faster than wildfire.
This was in the days before Facebook, Twitter and Instagram—fishing websites and message boards were just in their infancy—but in hindsight, I think the committee member’s warning was the most profound comment I heard during those meetings, even though it was met with barely a shrug at the time.
He was absolutely right.
More than depth finders and underwater cameras, more than GPS maps, the speed at which word of a “hot bite” can spread stands as the biggest technological “threat,” for lack of a better word, to fishing quality.
I thought about that again the other day when a friend messaged lamenting a photo he’d seen posted online and in real time of a pile of bluegills on the ice of a small reservoir he fishes when the opportunity allows.
It’s a gem, this little lake, and I don’t think my friend has kept a fish from its waters. More than the photo, though, he was frustrated to see the angler posted the name of the reservoir for the world to see.
In the process, that fisherman likely helped kill—or at least diminish—a hot bite by opening the door to bluegills by the bucketful being removed from the small reservoir before winter ends. Word spreads fast, and there’s no way that little lake—or others like it—can withstand a barrage of pressure unless the people who fish there show some restraint and release most of the fish they catch.
Possible, perhaps, but not probable.
Anyone with a license has the right to fish the reservoir, of course, but with information comes responsibility. Given the prevalence of social media and the opportunities for spreading the word about the next “hot bite,” all of us who fish need to think about the impact our actions have on the resource.
That’s especially true on small lakes that can withstand only a limited amount of pressure. Keep a few fish for the frying pan, if you must, but there’s no reason to keep a limit.
Especially if you’re set on telling the world where you caught them.
Jiggles and giggles
Speaking of technology, I got a chuckle the other morning from a fisherman who’d read my column last Sunday about getting out-fished by a friend who refuses to ice fish with anything but jiggle sticks and oversized bobbers.
Out of sheer stubbornness, this fisherman won’t use a depth finder or ice fishing rods with reels.
That struck a chord with the reader who emailed me this week:
“Two weeks ago, my friends and I went up to the Northwest Angle,” he wrote. “My two buddies were teasing me about fishing with jiggle poles. They actually told me that I should try and get into the 21st century so I could at least help them get some fish.
“We were in a sleeper house, and I had the flu and I was sick the first two days,” he added. “I was not fishing very much because of the flu, but I did manage to get out of bed and fish Saturday afternoon. I had been in the water 15 minutes when I stood up to stretch and watch my jiggle pole go down the hole. After a few choice words, I got out my $100 rod and reel from the 21st century and proceeded to get skunked the rest of the trip!”
He went on to say he tried to buy a replacement jiggle stick upon his return to East Grand Forks but couldn’t find any place locally that sold them. He found one online, he said, but the shipping cost was $9—more than even the nicest of jiggle sticks is worth.
He wondered if I had it in my heart to sell any jiggle sticks I might have lying around.
Turns out I did, and he stopped by the office Friday to buy them. I must confess, though, that I kept one for posterity.
After what I saw a couple of weeks ago on Lake of the Woods, I just might use it if I can’t get the fish to bite with my high-tech stuff.