Words of Wisdom

I recall my father providing my first fishing lesson when I was a young, easily frustrated angler. “Patience is a virtue,” he would repeat. At the time, I had no idea what virtue was, but knew enough to associate this refrain with a lackluster day of fishing. As I grew older I either acquired this virtue or caught more fish. Maybe it was a little of both. Regardless, it was the first of many adages that I would validate through my fishing experiences. But surprisingly, while many sayings have stood the test of time, there are many I would debunk.


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“The sargassum is always greener on the other side.” The original refrain was not about sargassum, nor is this fishy flotsam green. Still, no part of this proverb is true. Many times I’ve left a promising weedline in search of one with more life. I find neither. Instead, I end up furiously seeking that original location and the fish I left for better pursuits. So, I have left my last weedline in search of yellower pastures!

My subsequent outing was greeted with a horrific stench and a plague-like swarm of black flies and maggots. I have yet to repeat my folly.

“The end justifies the means.” Look only at my not-so-graceful art of gaffing to validate this age-old philosophy. I have fished for 20-years, and have swung the gaff countless times. While not always pretty, my efforts have rarely been ineffective. I have whiffed, bounced, dropped, slipped, tripped, splashed, ripped and missed. But on all but a lone occasion, I have hoisted a fish over the gunnel. While it may have required an extra swing, caused an additional hole, or warranted ridicule…the end justifies the means with gaffing!

“If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.” We are trolling offshore with a perfect spread. Suddenly, the planer rod doubles over. The unknown predator doesn’t jump, but digs deep as line continues to peel at an alarming rate. “It’s probably a wahoo! Keep the boat in gear,” someone exclaimed. Excitement reaches a boiling point as a long, silvery fish glimmers below and comes into focus. “It’s…a barracuda.” If it seems too good to be true, it probably is a barracuda.

“Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.” Though a strange and confusing saying, I did use it to spin-off my own angling variation. Make sure to throw out the bait with the livewell water. This is a mistake I made once, emptying the livewell and forgetting to remove the leftover offerings. My subsequent outing was greeted with a horrific stench and a plague-like swarm of black flies and maggots. I have yet to repeat my folly.

“Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.” Nor a gift fish. And is there a fish that qualifies any more than the loved, hated, but always willing to battle bonito? When these powerhouses invade our reefs, reels scream and anglers curse. Yet the much-maligned bonito gets no respect, earning dubious nicknames. But not long after they depart our waters like an unwanted guest, do we find ourselves mired in a slow day and yearning for that gift fish and its great fight!

“Grab the bull dolphin by the horns.” While dolphin have no horns, grabbing one remains ill advised. I learned this following an aforementioned gaffing incident. It was a big bull and I was determined to get it in the boat despite losing the gaff overboard. I grabbed the fish by the tail, though an argument could be made that the tail grabbed me. The battle ensued and I was thrown about as if holding an uncontrollable paint mixer. I finally boated the fish, but only after refuting this silly suggestion.

“Loose lips sink ships.” Actually, defective bilge pumps and three days of rain sink ’em. This is another one that I learned the hard way. On a side note, an equally unfortunate boating incident gave merit to the saying, “Where there is smoke, there is fire.”

“Never leave for tomorrow what can be done today.” A fisherman certainly did not author this nonsense! An angler’s version would more likely read. “If it can wait until tomorrow, do it tomorrow and fish today.” Consider the original version another misguided motto.

“A watched pot never boils.” I have never tested this one, but I can tell you this for certain. A watched fishing rod never bends. In fact, I have proven that an ignored one will instantly attract fish. I cannot explain how or why, but the rod I am furthest from and least accessible to will always get whacked first. Perhaps the fish enjoy watching me scramble, tumble and plow my way through an obstacle course of buckets, coolers, rods, hooks, etc. only to dejectedly arrive at my destination too late. I have tried to fool the fish and pretend not to watch, even utilizing mirrored lenses to hide the direction of my gaze. But they know, and so do I – a watched fishing rod never bends.

“Waste not, want not” A more applicable mantra for our glorious sport does not exist. Whether adhering to limits, properly reviving a sailfish, utilizing circle-hooks or venting a grouper for release, our collective actions today determine the health of our fisheries tomorrow. The fishing community must continue to lead conservation efforts, cherish the ocean’s resources and always “Waste not, want not.”