On Saturday I was fishing my local spot. You know, minding my own business whilst sucking in some salty fresh and breathing out the stresses of 2020. It was a absolute stunning morning. About sixty meters in front of me was a working bank causing the clean water to foam up every now and again. At the other end of my line was a mouth-watering milky white tjokka bait carefully assembled with a tailors precision. I almost had a nibble before envisioning myself bleeding with a 6’O sport circle hook dangling from the corner of the mouth.
It was a quiet morning fishing wise. Despite great conditions, apart from the water being on the clean side, the fish wasn’t biting. But we persisted and eventually something gulped up my juicy bait and swam off like only a Kob can. The fish was shaking its head as it tried to throw the hook and I developed a light shiver in my bones from adrenalin pumping through my veins. I could already smell the smoke from lemon butter dripping off a fresh Kob fillet on the braai. With the last wave rolling towards me the fish gave one last desperate head shake before I gently guided him onto dry land. It tuned out to be a bloody banjo (sand shark)!
I was still trying to recover from the shock and disappointment of the not-so-great surprise that was flapping on the side when I heard someone shouting at me, “Put it back, put it back”! I was absolutely dumb struck. I didn’t even have time to take out the hook before he started his screaming demands. Also, it wasn’t as much what he said as it was the way he said it. Completely dismissive of this poor bewildered fisherman standing with his tail between his legs. The words came with the same sort of distain as if a Brackenfeller was screaming at a EFF supporter. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing and all I could mutter was a bemused, “Excuse me”?
“Put it back, what are you going to do with it’? Came the scorching words again from a guy that can only truly be described with Afrikaans Westcoast words. He took an aggressive stance as well and waved his arms around as if he was about to take to the air. Now look, I’m short tempered as well and only the wife tells me to put it back! Nobody tells me what to do except the guy who pays me and the missus, occasionally. I could feel my ears warming up and my nostrils started to flare. I felt like taking a bite out of the sandy and spitting it in his face. I literally saw myself slapping him through the face with a banjo! I took a few steps towards him, bulging a fist on the left hand while raising the right above my head holding the sandy by its tail.
But then I noticed the women standing next to captain planet glaring at me, then glancing with pride at aqua man(the protector of all things fishy…), before fixing her distain eyes on me again. I have to be honest, if it wasn’t for her I would probably have had a go at the old timer. I’m not saying she was big, but he stood in her shade, completely! She looked like a cross between a F1 Ford and Table Mountain. Her size however wasn’t as frightening as the hair on her back. I just knew instinctively that I had to play small and keep my mouth shut. I didn’t come to the beach to wrestle a grizzly and her cub!
So what could I do? What can one do? I gently unhooked the fish, taking the utmost care not to make it bleed and then I gave him a kiss and softly placed him back in the water. I even motivated him to swim away with a encouraging “go sandy go”! He swam off with the arrogance and attitude of someone who just got saved by his big mama. The PETA police turned away satisfied and shuffled off.
In the end all is well that ends well. That evening Steve Irwin got a bear hug and fell asleep thinking that he made a difference in the world and in the life of one little Sandy. Me, well, I got to go home with a bruised ego but without my head being bitten off… Literally that is!
Viktor Frankl wrote something in the lines of “between stimulus and response lies our greatest power… the power to choose”. We all have a choice in life and in every situation. I knew I could choose to ignore this guy or I could choose to be upset. My choice was to let it go, but it has been niggling at me for a couple of days.
I mean he doesn’t even know me. He doesn’t know that I have released more Sandys than he has played with himself. He doesn’t know that by principle and personal choice I release 90% of all fish I catch. That I believe all big breeding fish should be released because they are the future of our fish stocks. He doesn’t know that I’m a tree hugger, a bunny massager and a nature lover. I even support meat free Mondays! Yet he decided to judge me based on one Sandy that according to him spent too much time out of the water.
I guess I feel like the guy on social media who get judged and ridiculed based on a single photo of a single fish (given, sometimes its multiple photos of multiple fish). We are so quick to judge, but when the tables are turned its not so great! Don’t get me wrong, I believe in catch and release and preserving our fish stocks for future generations. But there are ways of doing and saying things without climbing into someone’s character. We tend look at a picture and just assume the worst. Lets rather lead by example and educate fellow anglers through civilised talks and discussions.
Keeping a 120cm Kob is not against the law, but is it ethical? Keeping 5 Grunters are allowed, but do you really need 5? All fish above a certain size should be released and it should actually be part of the Marine Act. For example a Kob over 100cm, a Galjoen over 50cm and a Grunter over 70cm should be illegal to keep. Rather eliminate the minimum size and install a maximum size for all species and new total limits per species. The reality is however that we cant rely on DAFF or the government to change the rules. We should just choose to live by these rules whether its law or not.
Fishing is not about what you keep, its about what you release… So remember to, “PUT IT BACK”!