Is Following Around a Fishing Guide Cheating?

The practice may be the fastest and easiest way to find fish, but it doesn’t make it right.
fishermen stealing fishing spots
Capt. John McMurray makes the case that anglers should research and find their own fishing spots, not spot-steal from captains.

I get it man. Most of you are weekend-warriors. And I don’t say that in a derogatory way. 

You’ve got a real job slugging it 9 to 5, bringing home the bacon, paying the mortgage, etc. I respect that. I understand that. There’s certainly a part of me that wants to go back to that way of life, because 200-plus days on the water is not as glorious as it sounds. It’s more like 4 to 7 on a good day, which may explain my cranky disposition on stuff like this.   

The point is that you’re not on the water all the time like many captains. You probably don’t have a large network of guides and anglers who you share intel with; it’s unlikely you pour over weather and tide apps, satellite shots, and other pre-trip research. You probably don’t have the time, experience and cumulative knowledge that comes with it all. 

But you really want to catch a fish or two during your hard-earned down time, which is totally understandable. Except in extraordinary circumstances, most of the time fishing is just hard. And screw that saying, “Hey, it’s just nice to be out on the water.” I don’t care who you are, getting skunked is not fun.

So why not just bird-dog that guide who posted all those fish on Instagram? 

I’ll tell you why. As a guy who runs charters for a living, it’s kind of frustrating when you turn around and there’s a half-dozen boats on your tail, taking advantage of all your efforts. Doesn’t matter whether it’s inshore or offshore fishing.

Yeah, I know what you’re thinking, “Don’t post on social media, ya dummy!” In this day and age, that’s how most of us generate business. Hell, if I’m being honest, I built my entire offshore business on the back of Instagram and Facebook social media platforms.    

But back to the topic at hand. Is following a guide cheating? Yeah, I think so. 

Lost is the art of finding fish on your own. I know I’m old and salty, but in the old days, part of the fun was figuring out where the fish were. And when you did score it was that much sweeter, rather than today’s more-common get the numbers from someone and burn it there. Or simply follow that guy who’s been catching them. It’s not lost on me that we live in a world where short attention spans and immediate gratification trump the sense of accomplishment that comes with hard work and patience.   

Like I said, I understand you want to catch fish in the limited time you have available. But try and see it from our point of view too. It takes work, time and lots of fuel to get on a good bite. And, it seems unfair to me that you can get around all that work by just following us around. Frankly, it makes me somewhat angry. And don’t get me started on those spot-burning dealers that dole out GPS coordinates.

I’m not naïve enough to think that I might change anything here, but my suggestion to anglers is to do your own research and fish your own spots you think will hold fish. Yeah, you have a greater chance of striking out than taking the easy route. But you also get to enjoy the thrill of finding your own fish. I know it sounds hokey, but it’s true. There is nothing quite as awesome as pulling up to your own spot and getting that first unexpected strike. 

Or just take the easy way out, follow a pro, or buy some numbers. That seems to be the preference these days. But it certainly doesn’t make it right. What’s your take?