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Are we talking about one big fish story or is it a lie? There is a difference

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By Brant McMullan, Fishing Correspondent

My dad is one of the best I know at telling a fish story. It’s the fine art of molding the truth into a story completely based on actual events, but certain details may be left out or added that allow for the truth to take a form that best exemplifies how the mind wants to remember it.
A fish story is innocent in nature and will never harm any unsuspecting listener. Growing up, I was raised on fishing stories, but a clear line was drawn between a fish story and a lie, a line I was taught never to cross and have lived by for the 30-something years of my life.
There is an epidemic in this country that has been getting worse and worse over the past several years, and I cannot ignore it anymore. The line between a fish story and a lie has been blurred such that the “fish story” is no longer innocent and benign: the culprit is news media. It is absolutely out of control.
The most recent media feast has involved the oil leak in the Gulf. The news media report as if life in the Gulf of Mexico is over. The drama they create drives the general public to the verge of hysteria. They have even gone so far as to insinuate the oil leak will affect us here in Brunswick County. Enough is enough!
They have not reported that the amount of oil that has been spilled into the Gulf of Mexico thus far is less than half of the amount that was released as a result of hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Those were natural-caused spills, with no one to blame. God forbid if there’s someone who can be accused, rightfully or not. The media pick up the story, run with it and mold it into the story to best benefit their agenda: ratings. It sounds like the formula for a fish story, but when the story is malicious and hurtful, it becomes a lie.
Back to the oil spill. I have been in close contact with charter Capt. Mike Ellis of Relentless Charters out of Venice, La., the closest land to the oil leak’s location. He e-mailed me a recap of last week’s events, which started with a frenzy of news media.
He and fellow captains saw an opportunity to make lots of money as the news crews paid big money to get shots of oil booms and skimming in action. Ellis reports to me that as the week progressed, he began to feel pressure from the media to report and show doom and gloom scenarios. Locals who were interviewed were encouraged to give interviews as if the loss of their livelihood was imminent. Finally, Ellis realized what started as a chance to capitalize on a short-term opportunity was going to end up hurting him and fellow charter captains for the future. He was getting calls every day canceling fishing trips as far out as August.
So, what does any fisherman in his right mind do when faced with such adversity? He goes fishing, of course.
Ellis went fishing and he reported an ocean full of life: whales, dolphin, turtles, birds and lots of yellowfin tuna—no oil. He fished many oil rigs in the Gulf and actually found the most action from yellowfin just 5 miles from the Deepwater Horizon rig, the location of the underwater oil leak.
I am certainly no expert on oil spills or leaks, and I am in no way saying the events transpiring in the Gulf will not have some impact. I am, however, an astute observer and what I am saying is the next time you watch the Weather Channel and you see one of its reporters standing in front of a downed tree and reporting on strong winds, ask yourself, “Is that tree one of many or simply a nice prop that helps enhance a likely fish story into something worse than a fish story—a lie.”
Now that I got that off my chest, let me report that fishing here in Brunswick County is getting better by the day. The big news this week was the arrival of king mackerel to near shore waters. King mackerel as large as 35 pounds were landed off Ocean Crest pier over the weekend.
Near shore hot spots such as Yaupon Reef, Lighthouse Rocks and the 390/390 were alive with king action, most from school-sized fish 8-12 pounds. Also, schools of pogies have arrived up and down the beachfront. These baitfish form the base of the game-fish food chain, and their abundance bodes well for the area’s fishing this season.
The only piece of the fishing puzzle missing is the arrival of the annual Mahi-mahi run. They have been sporadic thus far, but it is time for them to show up in a big way. I’ll be heading out Monday in search of them and will have a report next week.
Good luck, good fishing and don’t lose sight of the difference between a fish story and a lie.

BRANT McMULLAN is a charter captain and fishing columnist for the Beacon. Reach him at captbrant@oifishingcenter.com.