Thursday, June 2, 2011

In the net, good, bad, ugly

n the Net
The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
Trevor Shpeley

“The only way three people can keep a secret is if two of them are dead.”

The debate has been raging for as long as communication has been possible between more than two people at once. It probably started when one cavemen told his buddy from the next valley about a good spot to find eggs. The next time the original group went to their favorite spot there were no eggs left and to top it off, the others had left shells all over the place and ruined the path in. The blabbermouth caveman was promptly killed and the others swore nobody would ever leak their secrets to strangers again. We all know how that turned out.

With the arrival of newspapers and magazines it became possible to reach masses of readers hungry for information on the best fishing and hunting spots. This saved people the trouble of physically combing the countryside or worse, listening to the rambling tales of crusty old timers which then, as now, were long on wind and short on facts.

Picture rich articles on hidden lakes were greeted enthusiasticly by magazine reading outdoorsmen. They were greeted somewhat less enthusiasticly by fishermen that were already enjoying the watery jewels in question but as history has shown, the stories in the fishing magazines never had much more than a temporary effect on a featured water and an equilibrium was reached with only the occasional debate in a riverside pub to keep the issue alive.

That was before the internet of course. We now live in a world where anybody can sit down at a keyboard and post whatever they like for everybody to see. That fact makes online forums a real game-changer when it comes to the issue of “hot spotting” as the practice of posting sensationalized fishing reports has become known.

First let me say if it's not already apparent that I am a big fan of internet forums. There is simply no better way to learn new techniques, improve on old ones, discuss ethics and current events, get to know fellow fishermen or just plain brag about your latest catch. Magazines such as the one in your hand do a fine job as well and they do a much better job than the net at delivering facts that turn out to be actual facts, but there is a limit to how much information you can stuff into the confines of a magazine every month or two.

The detractors of online forums make some very good points. Forum posts happen in real time and are seen quickly by many people. When a person writes something to the effect of, “Hey you should have been at Secret Lake yesterday, the sedges were coming off and six pound fish were slashing around like cats at a string factory,” you can be sure that within a day or two you will be hard pressed to find a spot to anchor. Hot spotting is a very real phenomenon and a fish-hungry flash mob at your favorite lake is not a pretty sight.

So does it have to be that way? Does a fishing report have to include GPS coordinates in order to be interesting? Not at all, in fact, the trend now on many internet forums, the BCO Forum included, is to encourage you to withhold exact locations from your fishing reports. You can always communicate via personal message with people that really want to know where it is.

By all means tell your fishing story in all it's glory, but remember the report is just as enjoyable when it says something like “a Kamloops area lake” rather than the actual name. If somebody recognizes your lake from your pictures, good manners suggests that they keep that information to themselves and since they obviously already know the water in question, no harm is done. On the other hand, if you are fishing a large well known body of water where secrecy isn't really an issue like Roche, Tunkwa or the Fraser, well you aren't going to do any harm naming names so fire away.

So, internet forums, good for the fishery or bad? I say good. Discussion among fishermen means a higher standard of ethics, better knowledge of proper fish handling techniques and a more unified user group. Does it have it's warts? Yes absolutely but with a little common sense and some gentle education these problems can be minimized.

What do you think? Join the debate at

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