I recently had a very good angler tell me that he felt that “Facebook is the worst thing that’s ever happened to fishing.” The phenomenon that started as the “new frontier” has, from what I’ve seen in the last year or so, become a war zone many are now blaming for destroying our fisheries!
Just a couple of weeks ago, I wrote about how important trust has become to anglers. I pointed to the internet as being the biggest culprit in creating concern. I got a ton of feedback as well as a bunch of horror stories from anglers telling me how dangerous it is to share information anymore. And that’s when the Facebook stories began to surface, making me consider what the dynamics were that created such a monster.
In the early days of social media, sharing information and ideas seemed for a while to be a great concept. Most good sportsmen usually like to share with others who they feel are trustworthy and who won’t abuse the information they are receiving. But the Facebook posts soon became a place where anglers would try to “one up” someone else’s great catch. Rivalries became common, and nasty comments criticizing how big a fish “really was” (as well as whether it was taken legally, etc.) were part of the experience! Trolls were everywhere.
Later, many anglers began strolling through Facebook looking for good catches. The plan was to weasel all the information they could out of the successful angler with insincere compliments, thereby winning his confidence. I watched this happen, where an unscrupulous guy pried some key info from the angler who had made an innocent post. The information was, in turn, reposted, where at least 20 other anglers joined the chorus. They were all planning trips within the hour to hit the poor innocent guy’s spot, which he had unwisely shared with a predator he had trusted.
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The phenomenon of large Facebook groups suddenly descending on a fishery and decimating it remains very real. Wardens have shared that they are concerned about the blatant disregard for the amount of pressure a fishery can take before it’s destroyed. I call it predatory fishing. The wardens told me they feel that Facebook groups and postings are a real danger. I’ve had anglers tell me about how one guy watching them catch some fish brought a whole horde to their best spot, destroying it overnight.
Looking back a few decades, we didn’t have these problems much and I believe the change is due to a few things. First, it’s easier to steal from others off Facebook than it is to develop your own places and patterns. Just watch for big catches online and then try to figure out where and what. Unfortunately, like locusts, these groups/anglers just move from a failing, overfished fishery to a new one that’s producing. They have scouts online all the time looking for a proud angler’s post.
Secondly, Facebook is the wild West. You can do outrageous things, post or say almost anything. With almost no accountability, you don’t have to worry about any possible repercussions. Nasty language, crude videos and outright theft of information are overlooked. What can anyone do? And it all happens … instantly!
Lastly, I believe that ego and self-centeredness are at all-time highs and that Facebook plays to that human weakness. Rather than be a good sportsman, it seems that being able to craft a ridiculous excuse for an outrageous action makes it OK. I saw one angler take someone else’s personal, hard-won information – shared in good faith for his use only – and turn around and go public with it, saying doing so would (help) many other anglers. Right!
Trust and integrity? That’s why guys are going to closed Facebook groups and only posting to their friends, allowing for very little public sharing.
When you remove accountability, incentivize theft and undermine sportsmanship with greed and selfish ambition, our whole sport suffers. Facebook seems to be a platform many now use to take all they can get, however they can get it. If they can elevate themselves in the process, they feel they’ve won! We are waging a war for the very soul of our sport and the new battle line seems to be somewhere online. Never give up!