Reading, writing and ... more regs

May 11, 2011 

During my school years, math was the one subject I absolutely refused to learn. History, English and languages always seemed to spark something in me, but when it came to math, it absolutely bored me to death.

In hindsight, I think I'll blame my teachers for my total lack of numerical skills. One of the most memorable math teachers I had was this short, pudgy little fellow who wore Coke-bottle-thick glasses and always talked in redundancies. Frumpy is the best way to describe his attire. To this day, I still swear his shoes were plastic. They would squeak with each and every step, which further hindered my ability to grasp the simplest of equations.

But, attire aside, it was those redundancies that were the icing on the cake. Here are a few of his classics: "Come up to the board individually, one at a time," "If you think about it mentally in your head," and, finally, "My neighbor who lives next door."

A rebel at heart, I figured that if he couldn't grasp the English language, then why in the heck should I learn math?

What does all this talk about math have to do with an outdoors column? It's because so many new rules and regulations have popped up that I truly believe Einstein would scratch his head trying to figure them out. Further more, these regulations change almost daily, making it doubly difficult for a math dummy like me.

What really blows my mind is this: If it this difficult for an avid fisherman like me, then how on earth are weekend warriors or novice fishermen supposed to understand the rules?

I received a notice from the Department of Natural Resources asking me to spread the word concerning the status of our sea trout populations after their recent samplings. It seems the extended period of colder-than-usual water temperatures this past winter really put the whammy on our trout stocks.

Though it is voluntary, they are asking fishermen to release any trout they catch so the fish can breed and hopefully replenish the stocks that took such a hit.

To me, this was some seriously sad news because for the past two years trout fishing has been about as good as I have ever seen it. I remember an extremely cold winter about 10 years ago that darn near wiped out our trout stocks, and it took nearly a decade for the population to rebound. So it looks like it will be quite some time before we have another banner trout year.

On a brighter note, grouper fishing has finally reopened. But beware of the new regulations regarding circle hooks, which are now required for all bottom fish, including sheepshead.

For years, I have used nothing but circle hooks for all my bottom fishing, but I don't get the sheepshead section of these new rules. Of all the sheepshead I have caught over the years, I could count on one hand the number of sheepies that swallowed the hook. It just doesn't happen.

Using fiddler crabs and small, strong, short-shanked hooks and -- almost without exception -- every sheepshead is hooked right in the hinge of the jaw, which is exactly where a circle hook is supposed to hook a fish. I don't know who came up with the sheepshead end of this most recent regulation, but I will say this: They obviously haven't ever done much sheepshead fishing.

I have been dying to get offshore again for another Gulf Stream trip, but Mother Nature has been huffing and puffing nearly every single day making it impossible to get out there. Even the cobia fishing is hit or miss right now. I have heard of a few small fish being landed, and the only big one was caught right there near the Spanish Wells docks straight across from the mouth of the May River. It was caught by Christiaan Politzer aboard his charter boat, The Bulldog. Talk about being in the right place at the right time, Politzer was down to two live baits, a menhaden and a whiting, when the cobia hit the whiting. It weighed in at 78 pounds.

The only fishing I have done lately has been in the saltwater lagoons on Hilton Head Island. When I get a few free minutes, I truck on over and hit the lagoons, something I have been doing since I was a wee lad. The coolest part of fishing in these sanctuaries is you never know what you will catch. Speaking of trout and lagoons, last week I caught (and released) a trout that was as long as my arm. During that same outing I caught three mangrove snapper, fish that are usually only caught in south Florida and in the Caribbean.

And, finally, before you head out, I dare you to do the math on all the new rules and regs. If you are able to figure them out, give me a call, because it's all Greek to me.

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