How Social Media Is Influencing Fishing

Social media is changing people's perception of fishing, writes Sam Boothroyd...

The chilly bin’s empty. The rods are packed up, and all hope is gone. You start up the car and slump into the seat, sighing as you do. Another fishless day.

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The number of days I’ve had exactly like this are countless at this point and yet I still jump at the next chance to get out there fishing again. Fishing for me is an addiction, as I’m sure it is for a lot of others, and part of the reality we have to deal with is catching nothing. For the most part, this is generally accepted as a normal part of fishing. However, I wonder as social media and the internet are forced deeper and deeper into our lives, how this might affect our patience and resilience.

Already it’s being shown that young people’s patience and attention span are being heavily affected by social media and the internet. As technology becomes faster and more efficient, the time we have to wait for things decreases, and our ability to get a dopamine fix from online content simply by skipping anything that doesn’t interest us. As a society, we are becoming more impatient. Why wait for something when you can have it now? This mentality may well apply on social media and online but it’s not applicable to the real world. I’ve always been told that good things come to those who wait, and I believe it’s true – being patient and careful often brings good things.

So as people – young and old – are affected by this phenomenon, will it change the way we fish, will we become too impatient to wait for bites? Will we not be able to wait out the lulls of the tide or work through the onslaught of spiny dogs to catch that one snapper for tea?

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I’ve always been an impatient person generally, but I think when I go fishing it’s an exception. I could quite comfortably sit on a shingle-shelf beach watching the clouds pass my lifeless rod tip for an entire day, or stare over the side of the boat into the inky blue without a care in the world. Yet, I couldn’t sit on the sofa all day or voluntarily sit through a slow documentary. Whether other people have this same mindset is another story; I’ve seen lots of friends or family have completely different reactions when fishing. Some are happy to be out and could quite happily sit all day, whether the fish are biting or not. Others not so much. Some people expect fish on every cast and are ready to leave after the first ten minutes at Spot X.

Being patient and having the ability to do nothing isn’t really regarded as a skill in our world but I think as our world changes and patience becomes a rarity it will start to hold its value. The art of meditation is something long regarded as essential for both mental health and a way to find direction in life. I’m by no means suggesting that fishing is meditation, as I know for a fact that I almost always find it the opposite of relaxing. But it definitely helps me clear my head – a day alone on a beach, wading up a riverbed or hearing the water lap against the hull of a boat gives you time. This time allows you to put life into perspective, making sense of stresses and worries and from that finding solutions.

I think social media, particularly in the fisher’s world, will have other impacts too. The community of fishermen on social media portrays certain views to other like-minded people, and I’m sure we all know what I mean. From waking up to turning off the lights to go to sleep, all I ever see on social media are photos of people with the fish of my dreams. Every single day.

The reasons for this are pretty obvious: there are some incredible fishers out there who have spent years perfecting their craft, narrowing down the exact spot the fish feed, putting themselves in the right spots at the right time, and spending ridiculous amounts of time and money in the pursuit of a fish. These are the true legends and I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s sat enviously looking at photos of 20-pound snapper, big kingies, and trophy trout. I’m by no means having a crack at these amazing people but it does make you feel pretty down when it feels like everyone is catching the big dogs and you’ve spent an entire day with nothing to show for it. As my dad always used to tell me when we went home empty-handed: “It’s called fishing, not catching.”

This rings very true to me, and the reality is that what we see on social media and online is usually only the best fish of any given trip and won’t even touch on the huge amount of time they’ve put on the water without success. I know that’s very much true in my case, for every photo on Instagram I have with a fish there’s generally been about five or six whole days where I’ve had nothing to show for it. The reality is that I’m still finding the spots, getting the technique down and putting everything together. What I’m trying to say is that being successful fishing is hard and everyone has to do the mahi to get the treats. We need to be patient and put the time in. But maybe fewer people will be able to do this as social media breaks away our patience and attention span.

As with everything, there are always exceptions, and the upsetting first-timers’ luck does and will continue to disgruntle those who have put the hours in.

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I think another difficult part of fishing is the debate of luck versus skill. I think this debate will never be solved and I think that’s down to the fact it’s actually both. For example, when the fish are on the bite, you can’t miss and anyone could catch a fish with practically anything. It’s on the days when it’s tough, where no one can get the fish to bite but there’s that one person hauling them in hand-over-fist. That’s when you know its skill and I’ve seen this in practice hundreds of times. There’s always one person who has a slightly more refined rig, is better in touch with their gear, or is putting their hook right where it needs to be. Time and experience teach you the smaller things – patience is the key to becoming skilled rather than lucky. It’s a long and often boring road and I’m personally only just starting it.

I think whether we’re out there for a feed, for fun, or to escape the world for a bit, we need to value patience and aspire to catch big fish without being disappointed when we don’t. The world may be changing, and people’s attention spans may be shortening, but as long as some of us can sit with a rod in hand and catch bugger all without a care in the world, I reckon we’ll be all right.

December 2023 - Sam Boothroyd
New Zealand Fishing News Magazine.
Copyright: NZ Fishing Media Ltd.
Re-publishing elsewhere is prohibited

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