Where’d You Catch That Fish? The Infamous Spot-Burning Debate

Can you guess where this corbina was caught? Many anglers (including myself) will analyze the heck out of photos on social media and if they disclose any background at all. The location can often be identified.

Spot Burning

The topic of sharing spots with other anglers or posting photos of quality catches/outings while exposing the background and therefore location of your catch has been one of much controversy. As social media has evolved and begun to play a prominent role in angling communities, the controversy has only intensified. 

What Is Spot Burning?

When it comes to fishing, some anglers take spot secrecy and intel sharing very seriously. Spot burning occurs when an angler exposes the location of a good fishing spot to a large number of people. Usually, this occurs through social media or similar media platforms that have a large reach in terms of audience.

However, word of mouth can certainly result in spot burning. Whichever way it happens, the perceived result of spot burning is that more anglers then crowd your spot and overfish the area.

In this article, I won’t tell you what you should/shouldn’t do when it comes to sharing fishing intel and photos, but rather, I’d like to shed light on the implications of exposing fishing spots.

Starting From Scratch

You’ve put in countless hours exploring all of your local beaches. You’ve covered some 70 miles of beach and of those 70 miles, you’ve fished the majority of those areas more than a handful of times. You’ve worked hard to find your best fishing spots and you’d like to make sure your favorite ones don’t become heavily populated, well-known among the angling community, and overfished. 

Maybe you’ve been on a mission to find where big surfperch hold. Or maybe you’ve been looking for where the biggest spotfin like to hangout. Heck maybe you’re searching for seabass, halibut, or something completely different. Bottom line, you’re putting in hard work and sacrificing time and effort to accomplish a goal.

Your Time and Efforts Begin to Pay-off

After a few months or even a few years now, your hard work is starting to pay off. You’re consistently catching your target and you might even say you’re dialed. After all those countless hours of exploring, guessing and checking, and grinding it out to learn your local fishery and best practices, you’ve accumulated a wealth of knowledge and invaluable experience.

You know which spots hold which fish and when (to some degree) and going forward, you won’t have to do as much guessing and checking in order to get on a good bite. You have an arsenal of spots and your time and effort spent up front is priceless in the long term. 

The Affects of Social Media

Now, let’s say you hop on social media and post a photo of a great catch exposing the background and/or disclosing the location of your favorite fishing spot. Welp, the whole world has just been given the info that you’ve worked so hard for. Except they didn’t do anything for it.

That might be fine by you (at first at least), but two things here. 1.) I’d be willing to bet that mentality of yours will change over time. 2.) It’s not only your spot that you just exposed, it’s someone else’s too.

It’s Not Just Your Spot

This point can be made for whichever side of the argument you’re on. When you find a fishing spot that you fall in love with and you want to keep it to yourself, that’s an unrealistic expectation. It’s not your spot. In fact, many anglers have likely stumbled across it prior to you and many anglers have probably caught bigger and better fish than you have while standing exactly where you stand.

But that’s okay. It’s not their spot either. It’s there for anyone and everyone to discover. So while you can’t have it to yourself, you should also understand that this spot might mean just as much to someone else as it does to you. That said, what you choose to do with your new-found intel will impact the many other anglers who care deeply about that fishing spot.

Next time you go to post about a noteworthy catch or session, put yourself in the shoes of one of the many (or few) anglers who also worked very hard to find that honey hole. Know that you’re now making a decision for not only yourself, but for him as well… and for everyone else who’s worked so hard to find that spot.

Where’d You Catch That Fish?

Alright let’s run a different scenario. Maybe in this scenario you post an image of a great catch on social media. Except you were careful in taking the photo. No background exposure and you keep the catch location a secret. Only problem, people want to know where you caught it.

So they ask – good friends, angling buddies, and even compete strangers. “What beach is that?…Where’d you catch it?” It’s almost inevitable someone will ask (if your catch is something most anglers have to put in work for). 

Now that you’re having regular success, other anglers are interested where you’ve been catching these really nice fish. Is it okay to not answer the question? Is it okay to just say it like it is and tell them to find their own spots, put in the hours, and sacrifice their own time and effort?

Should You Share Fishing Intel?

This is where it can get a little tricky. You might have a couple buddies you share all your intel with because they’ve been putting in the work with you. They bounce ideas of you, you bounce ideas off them and everyone’s contributing. This is common in small circles. Maybe you share the intel with them.

What about the not so close fishing buddies but still respectable, good anglers who you’ll fish or talk with here and there? What about the complete strangers? Where do you draw the line?

Tainting the Journey of Discovering Fishing Spots

Have you ever heard the saying, “finding new fishing spots is half the fun”? If you haven’t, I’d encourage you to ponder on that for a moment.

Over the years and especially over these last nine months, I’ve taken that saying to heart. Finding new fishing spots is a huge part of what I love about fishing.

Recently, I had a conversation with a fellow angler who figured out white seabass a few years back. I had this conversation just after I landed my first seabass. I recall one specific memory of when he made a trip down to fish in San Diego County. We had planned to connect if our schedules lined up and although we couldn’t connect, he had really good success while he was here.

So what did I do when he told me of his success? “So was it at this beach or the other one?” He decided to not tell me about his new-found intel and I didn’t dispute it. But more than that, in this recent conversation, I thanked him. I pointed him back to that moment and the many other conversations I’d had with him and I said the following.

“I want to say thank you for not telling me too much as I got started on this journey. I realized now that if I had come with you that one day where you killed it in SD, I wouldn’t have explored as much as I have now.”

It wouldn’t have been nearly as meaningful and I would know a whole lot less than I do now.

No One Is Entitled to Know Where You Caught Your Fish

As much as many of us would like to know where you caught your fish, no one can blame you for not disclosing the catch location. So, if you’re hesitant about hurting someone’s feelings, don’t be. You worked long and hard to achieve the knowledge, experience, intel and now quality catch(es) that you’ve achieved. If they want to learn how to achieve what you’re doing, they can spend the time to do so. After all, you did.

At times, it can feel like a slap in the face when someone asks the dreaded question, “What beach?” The first thing that comes to mind? How many skunks did I have prior to getting here? How much time have I committed to this in order to find that answer you want… a lot and a lot. When you look at it from that angle, your perspective might start to change? And I’m not saying it’s wrong to ask, it’s almost the common angler’s natural instinct.

Is it Okay to Ask Where a Fish was Caught?

If you haven’t caught on yet, this is America… you can say/ask whatever you please. I’m guilty of it as well. If I see something that peaks my interest, be it some really juicy structure or an intriguing catch, I might ask for the intel. But almost always, if I ask, I make it very clear, often explicitly stating, they have no obligation to tell me and if they’d prefer to not even respond, I totally understand and support their decision.

It’s up To You

While no one but you is entitled to your fishing intel, it’s your decision to share with whomever you want. It’s your info that you came across freely, so do with it what you want. But it’s never a bad idea to think before you speak.

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