If your choice of game animal says something about your personality, then surely your choice of water does too. Do you like a shallow trout stream where big money is spent on little fish? Perhaps the offshore game with its multiple outboards, neck tats, and backward hats? Since our community has a far more diverse range of personality types than will ever be seen in the mainstream media, a breakdown vis a vis water could be interesting.* Having less experience than my better traveled brethren at Field Ethos, I’ll stick to what I know and let them fill in the gaps.
A lake is a debutante. Remarkably similar to a park, but with a lot of water added. Safe for the most part (lots of help and supplies nearby) it is a great place to ride around aimlessly looking at houses and other boats. Extroverted partygoers with too much Seagram’s and not enough sunscreen fill the weekends with tubes and epic sound systems.
Fishing, however, does take place. For the angler, it is the ideal place to spend 50 grand or so in competitive pursuit of one of the most common fish in the nation, and for snarling at jet skis while doing it.
For the neophyte boater who is unfamiliar and unconcerned with the operation and maintenance of their new equipment, it is a low-risk proposition. And if you can’t scrounge the funds to buy a boat, no worries. Bring a picnic basket, lay out in sight of the busiest boat ramp, and enjoy entertainment that is free and continuous. The lake is a playground.
While there is some overlap, experience has proven that river folk are a different sort altogether. These are they who like being away from it all, are a bit introverted, or don’t like people in general. They are usually there for a reason that has little to do with bream or bikinis. The draw to the river is that it is quiet, and it is quiet because-whether they admit it or not- people are afraid of it. There’s no yard that they’ll eventually drift to if they bust a lower unit on a stump, help and cell service are miles away, and the water never stops moving. And take my word for it that dragging a boat through ankle deep water sucks. Rivers don’t hate you; they just don’t care.
Outboard triage and problem-solving skills are a necessity, but knowing every sandbar, stump, rock, and run hardwires these lads. They are a part of the landscape and not just a tourist passing through it.
River fishing, at least in my world, is fairly straightforward: catfish on bottom rigs, or catfish on bush hooks, or catfish on trotlines. Stripers are as highbrow as it gets, but the real draw is sitting low in an open johnboat and running away from, and to, it all.
Now from the game warden’s perspective, working a remote river is usually more enjoyable. Patrolling a busy lake is all about presence and safety and trying to keep boats off of each other. And while it’s one of the most important things that we do, getting beat up on a boat in rough water every weekend starts to become like work by the end of a blistering hot summer.
Down the river, however, is a different ballgame. People do all manner of things when they think no one is around, and the waterway is no exception. Some of my most interesting sights and cases have happened there: beer bottle fishing devices, a six-gallon boat gas tank with a false bottom stuffed with far too many undersized stripers, a full-sized pirate ship, and a couple of guys who would still be out there right now catching fish had they not ran out of bait.
Things seem to be changing at both venues-lakes are constantly crowded with bigger money boats, and the sandbar at Devil’s Elbow on the Wateree river sees more buzzes caught than fish. Suits me well enough. There are much worse ways to spend time and much worse trouble to get into.
Get a boat and prove me wrong.
*piss everyone off