To the editor:
Like many in Southwest Florida, I enjoy a few hours a week fishing in our local waters. I enjoy wade fishing because it brings me closer to nature as I move stealthy among the fish. I consider myself an expert of camouflage and concealment because my former job, as an infantryman for 27 years. I wear colors that blend into my environment, and ensure my equipment is fashioned securely and silently.
My grievance is with discourteous fishing guides. Not all, but the ones who believe they control fishing holes because it is their job to put their clients on fish. Some view the local angler as an annoyance. One month ago, I was fishing when a guided boat traveled over a sandbar and parked within 25 feet of my location. Even though this irritated me, this is fishing, not golf, and I do not own the ocean or the shoreline. The boat captain started throwing what seemed to be hundreds of bait-fish into the water. This rang a dinner bell that created an artificial feeding frenzy among the redfish. Seconds later his clients started reeling in fish. I slowly moved away from the boat in pursue of wilder, smarter fish that I would trick with my artificial baits.
Last week, I was fishing near the same location, still moving quietly along the shoreline, targeting big snook near the mangroves. On this particular day, I moved even more cautiously because of all the stingrays I encountered. As I moved slowly down the shoreline, I came across the same person. My peaceful fishing was suddenly interrupted by the voice of the guide asking me if, "I was really going to cross in front of him," and that he expected me to "wade around his boat" because "it's called wade fishing right." However, because it was high tide, and there was no beach nor anyway to navigate through the mangrove maze I moved against his wishes past him inches from the shoreline and approximately 50 yards from his boat. However, I promised I would not disturb any of the fish his clients were attempting to catch. In fact, as I moved down the shoreline, his clients caught three additional redfish. In fact, the guide's boat, his brightly colored shirt, and our verbal exchange frightened more fish than my stealthy movements.
Many guides provide positive leadership, and are caretakers of our waters. However, a few guides feel other anglers are a nuisance and are entitled.
Currently, guides only have to pay the state around $200 dollars a year. This ensures that their clients are not required to have a fishing license. At three bookings per week, of two or more anglers, that would provide the Florida fish and game department with around $5,300 dollars, if those clients paid normal license fees. Few professions profit from an operation on government-controlled public lands and those who do provide the public service for all. The clients' catch is a loss to both the environment and taxpayer. In return for their clients not paying for licenses, a financial benefit only to the guide and client, they are expected to be stewards of angling.
Guides, please police your own ranks and sponsors, please filter who you provide support to. Be more critical than the number of fishing tournaments they win; you don't want "bad guides" representing your profession and company.