Is it recreational fishing’s “dirty little secret?”

That’s what a friend calls pooling bag limits.

He’s referring to the practice of taking someone else’s catch to fill out your own bag limit and combining the total to supposedly legalize the takehome quantity.

I’ve probably done it myself. But we should open this Pandora’s pooling box, think about it, and consider stopping it.

While it’s true that Mr. Law is unlikely to catch you pooling fish into a combo bag, that’s not the point. A true sportsman abides by the law whether or not he’s under watch. He does the right thing voluntarily.

The right thing in this case is clear. It’s simply wrong to allocate another person’s catch to your bag or by reverse, whether it’s frequently done or not.

First, let’s understand that bag limits apply to individuals, not groups or boatloads of anglers. That’s why the limits are specified as per person. The game animal becomes part of the bag when one takes possession of it as in boxing it.

For instance if the redfish limit is one, which it normally is, and you keep that one, it is unlawful for you to catch and keep another red in the name of someone else. (Let him catch his own.)

It may seem disagreeable at first to go by the letter of the law in what you keep, but I’ve known a number of anglers who already abide by limits and have no problem with it.

I remember well when more and more fishermen started combining bag limits. One somewhat understandable excuse for this was that they knew commercial folks were taking fish by the ton so it didn’t seem to be a big deal to fudge on the bag a bit.

And yet times change. A conservation ethic is in the air.

What are your thoughts now that this Pandora’s pooling box is wide open?

Good fisheries management depends on our voluntary compliance. Bag limits must be strictly personal.

Go catch your own; I’ll try to do the same.

First Published Florida Sportsman Magazine February 2018

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