Setting the record straight on cobia, 'selling' catches and local fishing tournaments

cdad@hiltonheadisland.netApril 19, 2013 

Coming up with something to write about every week isn't all beer and Skittles.

It wasn't until I started to look back at some of my earliest Bluffton Packet columns when I realized that it has been almost 10 years since I took the reins of being the outdoor columnist from Bob Bender.

Just so you know, I didn't ask for the job.

With that being said, I have really come to love writing. I don't work at the Packet as an employee. I am a freelance writer and I might just solicit a grin from my editor when I say that I sure as heck don't have visions of getting rich from doing it.

What keeps me inspired is the freedom to write about anything floating around in this thing on my shoulders just as long as it has to do with three things -- the Lowcountry, fishing or the great outdoors.

I realize I am an oddball a lot of the time, but that's just me. I get emails and phone calls from people I have never met complimenting my writing style and for that, I thank you.

I try to keep up with environmental issues, fishing legislation and other sensitive issues, but the way I think about it is this: Readers don't want to read about doom and gloom every week so I try to keep my columns light-hearted -- funny, while still explaining my own opinions on outdoors issues knowing full well that not everyone agrees with me.

Hopefully I am not crossing the line by doing this, but the following is an anonymous email sent to me recently. It reads, "Collins has it right when he writes, 'I know most are probably sick and tired of reading about my life.' The only thing he writes about is himself. There is a lot more to the Hilton Head Island fishing community than Collins Doughtie. Please have him write about those things -- such as local tournaments (other than the one he is winning), like the all-woman's Dottie Dunbar tournament; changes to fishing regulation such as the cobia receiving gamefish status, which protects the fish from commercial sale -- Collins probably does not like because he claims to be a sportsman but sells his catch; and other non-Collins-related subjects."

Ouch. As much as it hurts, I am a big boy and I can take it. But I do want to take the chance to set the record straight.

So here I go.

I guess the first thing is my column isn't even published on Hilton Head. I wish it was, but that's up to the publisher, not me.

As for talking about fishing tournaments, I can't write about them if I don't know they're putting them on or don't contact me and ask me to mention them. And as for the Dottie Dunbar Tournament, I have made that the subject of no fewer than eight columns. As a matter of fact, Dottie and her family were among the first people I met when I moved to Hilton Head in 1961. I have fished in the tournament many times and designed the tournament t-shirts just about every year, and it wasn't until Stacey Wimmer, the tournament director, moved away this year that I stopped getting info about the tournament to include in my column.

Now about our cobia. Every year, I write columns begging anglers to release cobia, especially in Port Royal Sound, saying that unless there are changes to the gamefish status so fish cannot be sold or the limit is changed from two cobia per person to two cobia per boat per day, we will destroy one of the finest fisheries on the entire East Coast.

When I write these columns, I know that I am opening a can of worms -- even with friends of mine who disagree with my views. And I talk with Al Stokes at the Waddell Mariculture Center all the time about this issue.

As a matter of fact, he and I discussed it the day before I read that email. Jumping the gun a bit, a tournament is being planned so they can live capture big six females from Port Royal Sound for breeding.

And for the statement that I sell my fish, I have never and will never sell my catch. I release a ton of fish, and when I have more than I can eat in a three-day period, I treat friends to fresh fish. I would rather release fish for another day than freeze them.

I hope I have addressed the questions and concerns raised in that reader's email, and I appreciate all letters, complimentary or not.

The fact that a reader took the time to write that email gave me the inspiration for this week's column, so thank you, and keep them coming.

God does not subtract from the allotted span of a man's life the hours spent in fishing. Columnist Collins Doughtie, a graphic designer by trade and fishing guide by choice, sure hopes that's true.

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