Last week on the way to have lunch with a former business colleague, I passed by the University where I graduated from back in 1997. To be honest, I don't really have fond memories of my time in school like a lot of people do. I worked a full time job, 6 days a week my entire tenure in college to help pay tuition and living expenses. College to me was nothing more than a means to an end, and honestly, I couldn't wait to get out and move on with life. In spite of that, as I passed the campus, the brief trip down memory lane did get me to thinking about how my obsession with fishing, not surprisingly, took precedence over even my academic career.
As all institutions do, my University had quite an expansive library. However, this was the early/mid-1990's, and the internet was still in its infancy and not all that readily accessible quite yet. I often had a fair amount of time to kill between classes, and because of the lack of access to what would become the world wide web, I would go hang out in the library and study. One particular day I was roaming around in one of the less traveled corners of the library building, and discovered the "map room". It was about 500 square feet and lined with large wood chests, containing drawers that were filled with large, poster sized maps. Through a bit of research, I located the chest that contained a detailed reference grid with U.S. Geological Survey maps for the entire state of Texas. Now keep in mind this was way, WAY before Google Earth, or even Terraserver ever existed, and USGS resources like this weren't commonly available for public consumption, much less for free. I used to spend HOURS pouring over those maps looking for fishing spots and obscure access points on the middle Gulf Coast of Texas. Every nook and cranny of Mission Bay, Port Bay, Copano Bay, Aransas Bay, and St. Charles Bay are permanently etched in my mind's eye because of the hours that although should have been used for studying, were used researching untapped fishing spots in the map room. In hindsight, I can honestly say that all those hours were in fact, far better spent hunting down potential fishing holes than reading degree related textbooks.
To be honest I hadn't thought about the time I spent in the Map Room in quite a long while. Now that my college days are over 20 years in the past, it got me thinking about the nature of how technology has changed the way we fish. Having lived in both the pre and post internet ages, in my experience there was much more of a sense of adventure when real-time high resolution satellite photos weren't there to light the way on our smartphones. One could get a general idea of the lay of the land from a paper map or a crude digital image, but for the most part, if you wanted to see how productive a given spot was in the real world...you simply went fishing to find out. I can tell you that on more than one occasion, some of these quests that resulted from research in the map room didn't turn out all that productive from a "catching" standpoint, but for the sheer adventure factor, they were absolutely priceless. Just ask my old runnin' buddy Jesse Alonzo about the time back in '95, where we almost got stranded in the alligator infested Mission River system for incorrectly estimating our batteries run time. Rumors of magnum Speckled Trout and Redfish along with a few glasses of good whiskey the night before tend to impair one's good judgment I suppose. But that didn't stop us from dragging my leaky old 14 foot aluminum Jon boat off into the great unknown, miles from the nearest human contact, to chase those giants .....all based on the research I had done in the map room. Despite the near epic failures, and empty stringers, those memories are some of the best of my fishing life, and are experiences that Jessie and I still talk about reverently today.
So this begs the question; the fact that resources like Google Earth, give us the luxury of literally picking apart a potential fishing spot down to the nano-level, are our experiences richer because of this? Or have we culled ourselves out of dozens, maybe hundreds of potentially memorable adventures, where the fishing would become peripheral to the experience of exploration and fellowship BECAUSE of the lack of information. I don't know what the answer is for you, but for me, I hope Google develops a time travel app. I know when and where I'll be headed.....Mission River, 1995.
Hope you all have a great week,