I was thinking how I wanted to just do a little lite blogging today, maybe something that didn’t in any way refer to the ongoing and accelerating meltdown of our society. As I pondered the range of topics it occurred to me that I hadn’t gone fishing in quite some time, and even though I am a terrible fisherman, it’s still something I enjoy tremendously – assuming of course the fish are actually biting.
My mind wandered back to the all-time greatest fishing experience of my young life:
About eight or nine years ago my then eleven year-old son and I put a little boat into the Saint John’s River here in Jacksonville and set out for a day of inshore fishing. We fished for several hours at a variety of spots with little to show for it, and we’d given up and headed for the boatramp. On the way past a sunken river jetty I decided to anchor up and try one last time.
What happened over the next hour or so was phenomenal. As fast as we could bait a hook and get the line into the water was how fast we were landing fish! We were catching a whole range of species too. Trout, snapper, sheephead, angel fish, reds… you name it; we were catching it! Other than a trip to stocked trout pond once when I was a child, I had never seen fishing like this. It was a novice fisherman’s dream come true.
At first I was trying to identify each fish as we reeled it in. After all – Florida regulates upwards of seventy varieties of fish and sea creatures. There are minimums, maximums, catch limits, and off limits to be considered. There’s no possibility anyone other than a hardcore commercial fisherman can possible know ALL those stupid-assed regulations! But I initially gave it a good faith try.
Pretty soon I realized I could catch fish – or I could read regulations – but not both. So I gave in and “went with it”. Running out of bait finally spelled the end of the outrageous thrills we were having. By this time we had two full five-gallon buckets of every kind of fish imaginable, and we pulled up anchor and headed for the barn.
As I approached the ramp I noted that a Florida Wildlife Agent was inspecting each boat and their catch as they pulled up. We were no exception and the stern-faced government employee walked up and without a word reached into my boat and removed both buckets. Without even a hint of requiring my acquiescence he dumped all my fish out on the ramp and began pushing them around with his foot.
“Uh oh” was all he said. His attention was drawn to a fish the species of which I was unfamiliar with. He produced a tape measure and carefully measured the “evidence”.
“Too short by a quarter of an inch” he announced.
Next he produced a camera and he photographed the fish next to the tape measure. Once done, he tossed the fish into a cooler of ice he had sitting nearby [I suspect the man eats alot of fish for dinner!]. Then he produced his ticket book, asked me for my license, and starting writing up my love note from the State of Florida. It’s about here that I registered a complaint; something along the lines of: “You’re NOT gonna write me up for a quarter of an inch are you?”
The change in the man’s demeanor was instantaneous. He straightened up, took a step back, placed his right hand on the handle of his pistol and demanded to know if I was “going to resist”!
“No I’m not resisting you. I’m just bitching about a ticket. Isn’t that a pretty normal reaction?” says I.
“Bitch at the judge” was his response and he was off to catch the next ravager of the environment.
Angry at the whole business I decided to take the man’s advice, and the following week found me at the appropriate court to contest the matter. After being frisked and herded in distinct bovine fashion into the inner sanctum of “justice” we were addressed condescendingly by another uniform who reminded us to rise from our seats and refrain from scratching ourselves when the judge appeared. The judge did appear shortly thereafter and made a little speech that went something like this:
“I only want to hear you say ‘Guilty’, ‘Not Guilty’, or ‘Nolo Contendere’ when I ask you how do you plead. Anything else out of your mouth and I’ll send you to a cell. If you plead ‘Not Guilty’ know that you must be here each time your case comes up on my docket, even IF we don’t hear your case that day – and the average number of times before it appears is about five times”.
Well… being a working man, I can’t afford to take that much time off from the job to fight this mess! So I resolved to accept my fate and move on. I was then stuck waiting for all the cases in front of me to be processed.
Now in that room there were the following “crimes” represented:
Possession of marijuana
Fish & game violations
It was interesting to note that the fine assessed for the first four “offences” was $149. The game violations (there were two of us) were $200! Wow – what an eye opener! By this measurement, I was worse than a shoplifter!
And the final indignity was the addition of $20 in court costs; and thus ended the tale of my greatest fishing trip ever. Or so I thought.
Roll the clock forward about two years when I am interviewing for what has become the best job of my life, and one where I hope to work until retirement. I had been through several interviews and clearly I was in serious contention for the position when the employer calls me and asks me to explain something he found on my background check. He only tells me it’s something to do with a wildlife violation. So I tell him the tale just as I have told it to you dear reader. And my future boss says “Okay that’s all well and good, but what about this charge of resisting a Marine Patrol Officer?”