The Importance of Playing Hookie

LizKeyWest-225x300I went fishing yesterday.

That’s the most important part of this work week. I’m in Key West, FL attending NOAA’s Council Coordination Committee Meeting, a four day marathon of presentations and discussions on fisheries management. I’m sitting in a ballroom of nearly 75 Gulf Council and other government agency representatives – men and women sitting behind laptops, microphones and power cords making presentations on how billions of dollars are being spent to improve our fisheries. And as I look around the room I’m wondering – when was the last time any of these people went fishing?

When planning to attend this meeting with my colleague Scott Gudes, ASA’s vice president of government affairs, we chose to add a day of travel to the start of our trip.

SeaqualizerKeyWest-300x184It wasn’t all about playing hookie from the office. We coordinated a demonstration of the SeaQualizer descending device, a tool that helps decrease mortality rates of deep water fish that are caught and returned. The tool’s inventors, Jeff Liedermen and Patrick Brown, arranged for Captain Chris Trosset of Reel Fly Charters to take us out fishing for the day. Our goal was to head to the Dry Tortugas, catch snapper and other deep water species, and use the SeaQualizer in our releases. We brought along video equipment to capture the techniques both for the set-up of the device on board, and then underwater to see how a successful release is achieved through its built-in technology. We can watch videos and read instruction manuals on how this innovative device works all day long, but can we fully appreciate it and stand behind it as industry leaders until we have seen it in action with our own eyes?

And darn…that meant heading 90 miles off the coast to catch fish at depths of 250 feet. Not a bad day at work.

ScottKeyWest-225x300And therein lies the point. There are those of us in the industry, especially at the ASA, who believe that the best way to understand our sport and public resources is to experience them. Our passion to work on behalf of this industry comes from being on the water and catching fish. Our understanding of the challenges that face our resources comes through witnessing them first hand. Our inspiration to go further, try harder, and never quit, even when the chips are down, is fueled both by a new species brought to hand and the one that got away. Going fishing, making it a priority in our work, helps our team remain relevant. I hope more people take time to get out of the boardroom to be reminded of why the decisions being made there are so important. I do.

Because I went fishing yesterday.

Liz Ogilvie
Director, KeepAmericaFishing