Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Cheaters, Poachers, and Thieves

It’s happening in our economy, banks, government, lakes, and forests. Greedy people are breaking the rules to gain spoils. It’s starting to come out in the news regarding banks and the huge derivative “side bets”, such as the $9B loss by JP Morgan. Inside traders and bankers are manipulating the system so that free market forces no longer dictate market trends. Instead, the market has become more like a casino. This is happening on our lakes and in our forests too; if enforcement is low, and someone thinks they can break the law and get away with it, many are making the choice to break the law.

Poaching is when one deliberately breaks the law or local ordinance to catch fish or shoot game to keep. In some places, laws are carefully enforced and fish and game officers protect our resources. In other places, including local waters and vast wildernesses, it’s impossible to enforce laws. In some cases, like on private lakes run by a homeowner’s association, it is difficult to enforce laws since the homeowner’s association in itself is not an enforcement agency.

Take, for example, my lake in Missouri, Lake Tishomingo, a 200-acre lake with about 250 homes. We put in time and money to grow big bass and to protect the fish by instituting a slot limit. In other words, you have to throw back all the big bass. You can keep some of the smaller fish to wean down the population.

A guy at Lake Tishomingo caught a 9.5 pound bass, probably the biggest bass ever caught out of Lake Tishomingo. He bragged about it and even admitted he kept the fish to taxidermy it. This is against our regulations and bylaws, and we are required to throw back these big bass. In a case like this, the International Game Fish Association would not certify this as a record since specific laws were broken in the catch. He could have still broken the lake record by weighing the fish and taking pictures, followed by a release.

It’s infuriating to see someone gain by breaking the rules. You're happy to see people succeed but not when they break the rules or hurt the resources or industry in the process. It’s even more frustrating when the government or regulating authority does not do anything to stop the law breakers. In the case of the Tishomingo bass, the homeowner’s association does not have any power or care about enforcing fishing regulations. On the other hand, the local Fish and Game does not have any authority on private waters either. I don’t like a system that is rigged. No one does. I want to play by the rules, work hard, and find success. In “American BeheMouth” I talk about these types of ethical issues in fishing, life, and government all in a fishing story.

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