Trout outlaws and the social media sewer
A late-March post on Pennsylvania Trout Anglers Facebook page read, “I’m back in the game – caught my first trout of 2020.” Accompanying the post was a selfie of the fisherman proudly holding a small, obviously stocked, brown trout in a death grip. The stream was in the background and there appeared to be blood on the fish.
A few people commented on the poor way he was holding the fish before release, but “release” was not on the fisherman’s agenda.
My first thought was – Wait a minute, in what stream can this guy catch and keep a stocked trout at this time of year? The answer is NONE.
Several other members of the group recognized the stream and declared that it had just been stocked the day before. Since it is a “Stocked Trout Water,” with no special regulations, it is closed to fishing at this time of year. Another member recognized the outlaw’s face and posted his name and address – in hopes that the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission would locate and fine this guy.
There were supporters of the trout outlaw being fined, me included, but then others chimed in that it really didn’t matter.
“What difference does it make? It is just one stocked trout,” one poster wrote.
Well, it makes a difference to me. It should make a difference to you. Everyone who purchases a fishing license and a trout stamp helped to pay for those trout. It is likely that the trout outlaw did not even have a fishing license. But, either way, everyone should have an equal chance to catch those stocked trout on April 18.
We are fortunate to live in a society governed by laws, and most people live in a law-biding and ethical manner. Not to do so is anarchy. If anarchy rules, society breaks down and there will be no stocked trout to catch or quibble about.
On the same Facebook page, several misinformed anglers were claiming that trout season was canceled or that “they canceled our opening day” – referring to the earlier opening day that had been scheduled, for April 4, in 18 of Pennsylvania’s southeastern counties.
Fact check – Trout season is still on. The opening day in the 18 southeastern counties was postponed to April 18, not canceled.
A number of posters responded by saying that they were going to start fishing and keeping trout on April 4, anyway. Why? – “I have my regulation book and that is what it says.” Or – “The change hasn’t been published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin, so they can’t arrest me.”
Fact check – It has been published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin. The change will be enforced.
Troubling to me was that no sportsmen or women suggested that, for the good of all, these I’m-going-to-fish-anyway anglers should follow the rules.
The coronavirus pandemic is causing changes in rules and recommendations every day, but as of this writing, the Fish & Boat Commission is busily stocking the state’s streams and lakes. The opening day for stocked trout will be held statewide on April 18. Outlaws who won’t follow the rules are being fined. When you do fish, the agency is recommending that anglers practice social distancing of at least one rod length.
Please follow the rules – they are intended to protect wildlife and make fishing and hunting better for all. Social distancing is meant to protect you.
Consider doing your part to make social media sites a bubbling spring where true sportsmen and sportswomen shine – not a sewer of misinformation and disrespect for the law.