Musing of a “Fish Story” Teller

Everyone has one of those friends who boasts about the giant fish they have caught and who isn’t afraid to be vocal about it.   Often, this friend comes armed with pictures featuring skewed perspectives of fish held at arms length from the body.   These pictures are usually followed by long winded tales of life or death fights between the fish and the angler resulting in a triumphant victory for the angler.  Strangely enough there never seems to be a scale or tape measure around when the fish is caught.  Sound familiar? This, I am sure, is not exclusive to Ontario, and I would bet dollars to donuts that it happens in every part of the world that has fish.

As an active member on many local fishing forums I often encounter posts questioning these people and their “estimated” fish sizes, weights etc.   Often, some forum members seem to take personal offense to these questionable fish reports.  Granted, the members are probably technically right to question some of the claims.  But what interests me the most is why fisherman make these claims in the first place and even more so, why people feel the need to “burst these bubbles” if you will. Why spend the time to access a public forum to dash the hopes of some hapless fisherman who finally thinks he broke the 6lb bass club but in reality is holding a 4.5lber? More importantly, does this dose of cold reality really benefit the fisherman or the commenter?

To answer these questions, I think we need to look at why people embellish in the first place.  Simply put, to embellish is to be human.  Partly because our memories are never as good as we think they are and partly because a fisherman’s view can be greatly distorted by the pride they feel from catching a fish.  Not to mention our natural instinct as humans to over value our possessions and skills.  Or perhaps it goes back to our days as hunter gatherers.  Back to the times where your social standing was directly proportional to how well you could provide for your community, placing the best hunters/fishermen at the top of the social food chain.   Or maybe it stems from our desire to see results for all our hard work, effort and invested money (as we all know, fishing requires a ton of these things!).  All these are valid explanations for why we over estimate.

Regardless of these motivations for embellishment, I believe all fisherman, embellishers or not, share one common trait: they are just happy they are catching fish or happy to get away from the busy world to enjoy some time in the nature.  I think its natural to want to share this experience with others.

Some of you may be thinking at this point ” you can’t just post a picture and claim that it is a giant when I can tell it clearly isn’t.  That’s just not right”.  Fair enough, If you feel the fisherman need a dose of reality, that is your opinion and your entitled to it.  But before you lay your own brand of judgement down, ask yourself, is reality really all its cracked up to be?

I think most would agree, the best source of reality in the fishing world would be taking part in a fishing tournament.  This is the quickest way to watch your 6lb bronze back giant magically shrink to a meager 4.5 lb through the voodoo that is a tournament scale.  Don’t get me wrong, many people enjoy this style of fishing and are avid tournament anglers.  But not all, and that’s my key point.  The important thing to remember here is not everyone’s motivations are the same when it comes to fishing.  Although I do enjoy healthy competition and the rush that brings, my fondest memories of fishing aren’t from tournaments.  They are from lazy Sunday mornings spent leisurely fishing a back lake with good friends and family while recounting old tales of fish gone by (which I am sure get more and more elaborate as the years pass).  They are from times spent worrying more about figuring out a pattern on lake then the actual weight of the fish I am catching.  They are from sharing old fish tales with my dad and family and having a laugh at all the blunders experienced.  They are from the “Remember when….” stories and I am guessing most people, regardless of your fish measuring ethics,  can identify with these situations.

The history of fishing is ripe with embellishment.  From a personal perspective, I am glad for this embellishment. Its these wild eyed stories these that filled my head as a kid with visions of catching the next world record, or finally catching the “Mazinaw Lake Monster” while camping at Bon Echo.  Its these stories that filled my head with possibility and wonder.  In my view, these stories are a nessicity to entertain the younger generation of anglers and for the survival of the sport .  We as serious fisherman must remember that the sport is enjoyed by all for many reasons.  To hold others to our strict personal standards of weighing and measuring would be to push away a valuable group who enjoy the sport.  It would require loosing the amatuers, dabblers and recreational fisherman.  More over, It would require loosing some of the wonder in a young child’s eyes as his grand dad explains the story of “the time hooked the biggest bass you’ve ever seen”.  I for one would rather give up all the scales and measuring tapes in the world than to see this feeling disappear.

Cheers from the Wild


9 thoughts on “Musing of a “Fish Story” Teller

  1. I have a friend who encourages me to take photos of my catch at arms length 🙂 I have to admit, it makes the fish look more impressive, but I still know that pike was 25 inches, not 26, and that I put him back in the water.

      • Size limits put a real damper on it, I think. I’m infamous for catching, say, a 13 3/4″ bass (our limit here is 14″). If you don’t keep the fish, no one believes you put it back in the water out of the goodness of you heart 😛

      • Interesting that you have a limit on your bass. Here in Canada there is no limit for that species. I totally know how you feel though except for walleye instead of bass.

  2. We have size limits on most species but panfish. In the northern zone of WI, there’s no limit on pike. But in Madison, for instance, pike have to be 41 inches to take them out of the two lakes here. Muskie need to be 47. The entire southern portion of the state is 14 inches for large and smallmouth. Walleyes are usually in the 20 inch range. Trout is 9 inches. But there’s also variance from lake to lake. I have the regs downloaded in a pdf on my smartphone 🙂

      • For the pike and muskie in Lakes Monona and Mendota (the two right in town) and Waubesa (just to the south), it’s both. Madison itself has about 250,000 people in it, plus the population of the surrounding towns. There’s tons of boat launches for easy access, and every beach can be a canoe or kayak carry-in. This area is extremely heavily fished. But the big ones are in there- we’ve seen em when bowfishing for carp at night. You troll over something you think is a long, medium-sized log in the water and then bam- it takes off. I’d love to get a chance to reel one in.

  3. I have one friend who will recount a catch that measured 12″ and hold his hands 20″ apart. I suppose it’s all a matter of perspective, personal and/or forced. From my point of view the fish is the star of the pic and should be held front and center. I frequently have to severely crop pics from others as they seem to think the background scenery is just as important.

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