Do fishermen lie?
As a fisherman myself, as well as a writer who observes other fishermen, I have noticed that we fishermen, in our enthusiasm, do tend to take liberties.
There are two common misrepresentations practiced by the angling community. The first is more of an innocent fib, or little white lie. This is when you ask an angler the actual size of the "slab-sided monster" that he is bragging about.
There are fishermen who will tell you that their fish was longer and lunkier than it actually was. For other anglers, who are on the receiving end of these fish stories, the urge to embellish or exaggerate the size of a fish is a familiar one. It is more or less expected.
The discerning listener, if he is polite, will simply go along with the teller of the tale and say "wow." In his mind, though, he will always subtract by 10 to 20 percent and sometimes, depending on the reputation of the boastful angler, even divide by two.
The other liberty taken by fishermen is a lot more serious. We'll call it a Cardinal Angler Lie.
Personally, I have no patience with this transgression. It is when the exhuberant, often unscrupulous angler tells you that he caught this speckled, bronze beauty at Pond X when, indeed, he actually caught it at Pond Y. Not all anglers are willing to go this far to protect their fishing hole, but the ones who do are usually very practiced at misrepresenting the truth.
As an outdoor writer, it is my job to query a lucky angler sporting a trophy fish like so: "Nice fish, now just where did you catch that beauty?"
This proud angler, who wants to see a photograph of himself and his fish in the Northwoods Sporting Journal, isn't about to say,"Hey, man, it is really none of your darn business." Instead, he lies. "Oh," says he, "caught him at the upper end of Pond X in about 20 feet of water. He hit a red and silver Super-Duper."
I can usually see through this bogus fish story. ( He actually caught the lunker at Pond Y, in about 100 feet of water with lead line trolling a sewed smelt.) But, of course, I, too, wanting to be polite, simply take him at his word and report what he tells me.
A week later, Pond X will be crowded with expectant anglers dragging silver Super Dupers at the upper end of the pond. At the same time, our aforementioned piscatorial prevaricator is back again at Pond Y, dragging a sewed smelt in 100 feet of water with the pond all to himself.
If you are a serious fisherman, you can feel empathy for the lucky soulmate who tries to protect his fishing hole. If lying — even about fishing holes — makes you wince, there is another way to obfuscate and safeguard the sanctity of your angling paradise without breaking one of the Ten Commandments or violating your Scout oath.
When asked, "Where did you snag that beauty?," resort to the informational control admonition used by the Central Intelligence Agency. Rather than lie about your favorite fishing hole's location, say this: "Look, I could tell you where I caught this ole larruper, but then I'd have to kill you."
This way the inquiring angler may leave you disappointed, but nonetheless relieved that at least he is still on this side of the sod, and able to fish another day.
Recently, on my Sunday night radio program, Maine Outdoors, we asked the question, "Do fishermen lie?" One caller said that he always stretches the truth about the size of his fish, that he just can't help himself. When I asked another show caller how you can tell when a fishermen lies. His response: "When you see his lips move."
Angler writer Ed Zern, who apparently believes we shouldn't take any fish stories too seriously, suggests that there is no original sin when it comes to those of us who fish and tell. "Fishermen are born honest, but they get over it," writes Zern.
The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. He is also a Maine Guide, co-host of a weekly radio program "Maine Outdoors" heard Sundays at 7 p.m. on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network (WVOM-FM 103.9, WQVM-FM 101.3) and former information officer for the Maine Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. His e-mail address is email@example.com and his new book is "A Maine Deer Hunter's Logbook."