The gentleman in a flowered shirt behind the hotel desk whispered to me, “I’ve seen guys fishing here.” With his pen, he scribbled a dot on the resort map.
I was visiting the resort with my kid’s baseball team for spring training. During the downtime, I wanted to take the team fishing.
I scoured the resort rules and searched for signage but failed to find anything stating fishing was not permitted. Still, I wasn’t convinced. I spotted large bass cruising along the lakeshore, but I hadn’t seen anyone fishing? That’s a bad sign.
I have an uncle who is a better-to-beg-for-forgiveness-than-ask-for-permission kind of guy. But that’s not me, at least when it comes to fishing. I like to know that I’m standing on firm ground. Or better yet, launching from public access. Fishing is supposed to be stress free, but how can I relax if I am always looking over my shoulder?
Don’t think I haven’t tried to throw caution in the wind. While working as a fisheries research technician at Michigan State University, a grad student was gracious enough to guide me to some of his best fishing spots. There was always an element of forbidden fruit on these trips.
The path to his deep pike hole took us through a well-manicured cemetery. Not a problem until halfway across the eternal resting place, with only headstones to hide behind, the kid hissed, “Drop your stuff! Keep walking and don’t look back.” He had spotted the maintenance worker who ran him off the week before.
To reach a monster carp honey hole, we crossed through a woman’s gated backyard. The lady was watching us, expressionless, as we shuffled through her yard. I gave her a polite little wave.
And to reach another secret lake, we had to walk along a major highway. Halfway through the hike, my guide informed me he had been “picked up” by state troopers for walking on an interstate.
I must say, the fishing at each of the spots was spectacular. The fish were uneducated: exceptionally large and inexperienced with flies and spoons. They smashed our offerings with glee.
Despite the fun, dread and anxiety haunted the back of my mind. Even if we made it to the forbidden garden, we still had to get back.
So, I summoned up the nerve and silenced my little voice then walked out to the resort’s lake nonchalantly carrying my rod and tackle box. Right away, I saw a big swirl. I casted a topwater. No bites. Then, I followed up with a spinnerbait. I was so focused on the fish, I didn’t hear the security guard walk up behind me.
The polite, uniformed officer explained he was new to his position and someone had seen me fishing so he had been called. We shook hands and I told him about taking the kids fishing. I hoped I might be able to reason with him.
There were signs around the lake warning about alligators and snakes and to not go near water. But “near” is pretty vague and, in my mind, certainly did not translate to no fishing. Besides, alligators and snakes are just part of fishing in the South, right? I was more concerned with the mosquitoes and the limping raccoon that lurked around the resort’s busy patio area in the middle of the day.
I thought I had the security guard convinced. “Yeah, they probably should be more clear about it,” he admitted. I should have asked to speak to his superior. I could have called the resort representative. But the moment, the vibe, the enchantment of fishing was spoiled.
A little embarrassed, and a little confused, I trudged back to my room and fired off a grumpy email to my contact at the resort, which made me feel a little better.
Later, I addressed the issue with the players who were hoping to fish. “I’ll take you fishing when we get home,” I apologized. “I have access to some fishing places where we only have to worry about being run off by a bear.”