I was trying to explain to my wife, Elaine, how the issue of trust – on many levels – in the world of fishing is becoming an increasingly bigger deal. As I pondered that concept, it became clearer that this was more of a problem today than even I had thought!
For many anglers, the sport is something we take seriously, very seriously. Many fishermen look at it the same way crazy football fans view their favorite team, tying their identity to it. Mess with fishing and you’re messing with them … and their world.
And the overriding issue is one of trust. Your best fishing spot, secret lure or special technique can become things you hold very dearly, the “crown jewels,” and sharing them with another angler can be traumatic! In a world where it’s not in vogue to keep your word, I’ve seen many of these “family secrets” casually exploited.
Dishonest anglers work to build up a personal trust factor, just enough to elicit the information they wanted. They then exploit this information to build a whole new group of “friends” who are unaware of the subterfuge! This didn’t happen before the internet. But now many anglers live in fear they might wake up one day and find their spot revealed by someone they thought they could trust.
When you decide to share your hard-won secrets, you’re giving a “fishing buddy” a high level of personal trust. Calling someone a fishing buddy is probably the highest possible compliment that shows that implicit trust, a term even non-anglers can understand. You are endorsing them as keepers of the “code.” But are they truly trustworthy?
Factor in the internet and you’ve got the gasoline needed to build a destructive bonfire that totally tests the trust factor. Sharing information that someone entrusted in you and taking conflicts and disagreements into the public arena is a recipe for disaster. Many have retreated from social media after seeing guys spread through their own posts the information they took (stole) from another angler.
Things happen too fast on the ’net, where misinformation is compounded by innuendo, and too many people with no stake in the issue then also weigh in. Things quickly go south and good buddies can become enemies pretty easily.
Seeing this kind of devastation spread online has caused a lot of guys to opt for a total blackout on posting anything they do, as well as avoiding any anglers who continue to post their own catches. Being tied to someone who may post your stuff, intentionally or otherwise, makes a lot of fishermen nervous. One mistake can destroy a whole group of trusted friends. Many fishing groups have become very cautious about anyone new that tags along, much less letting them into the inner circle. The internet has caused a real rebound effect for anglers who initially embraced it. It can be toxic.
All these factors are creating much tighter angling groups, formal and informal, where the “rules” are unspoken but everyone is watching everyone and any posts they make. Trust? It can be brutally short-lived. Post something you shouldn’t and you’re out.
Trust between buddies is already a sensitive thing, but when you see what’s happening out there where anglers are abusing trust and using the ’net to promote themselves, suspicions can run high.
The impact? One, I see more and more guys who feel that old-fashioned concepts such as sportsmanship and integrity are critical to preserving our sport, our resources and our way of life. They are seeking other like-minded sportsmen with whom to partner more than ever. Two, I see the walls around sensitive angling information being built much stronger. Anglers are more suspicious and tight-lipped. And I don’t blame them!
What should you do going forward? It’s a big question for conscientious anglers who when trying to help others have too often been badly burned. Yeah, it hurts, but I believe that real sportsmen pick themselves up and do the right thing anyway, even while refining their ability to know whom to trust! Never give up!