Episode 80: Into the Wilderness with Byron Pace

Byron Pace needs no introduction to most of you. He is a man of many talents: a filmmaker, photographer, writer and the host of the excellent Into The Wilderness and Into The Anthropocene podcasts. Given that we share many topics, and even guests, on our podcasts I was delighted to talk with Byron. During our conversation, we discussed the importance of hunters and anglers for wildlife conservation and education about the natural world. We also delved into the subject of rewilding. Obviously, I didn’t forget to ask Byron about his road to becoming such a prominent outdoors content creator. For me, this truly is a milestone episode. Please enjoy Tommy’s Outdoors number 80.

Episode 78: Human-Seal Conflict with Liam Flannery and Dan Brosnan

In episode 72 we started a discussion about seals in Ireland. As you might remember, at the time, I said that we wouldn’t get into the subject of human-seal conflict in that episode, as this is a complex subject that requires its own discussion.

Since then, I’ve wanted to cover it from all angles but it has been difficult to find people willing to talk about it on record. Clearly, there are a lot of emotions surrounding this issue.

Then, one day, I received a call from Dan Brosnan, who is a friend of the podcast and was our guest on one of the previous episodes. Dan got in touch with a young fisherman, Liam Flannery, who is trying his hardest to raise awareness about the problems that seals are causing for local fishermen. Before long we got all mic’d up and recorded this episode.

Obviously, we didn’t cover everything on this topic. So, if you have an opinion that you would like to share, please leave a comment. Better still, contact me directly and we’ll keep this discussion going.

Angling for Critically Endangered Fish

My good fishing buddy posted some photos from his two-day boat fishing trip. One of the typical grip-and-grin photos showed him with the porbeagle shark (Lamna nasus). This made me envious. As a compulsive-obsessive shark angler, I chased these sharks for many years. I was only successful once and the specimen I caught was very young and rather small. To me, it didn’t really count. So this species of sharks is still on my to-do, or more precisely, my to-catch list. 

But here lies the issue and the reason why it is such a big deal to catch one of these sharks. After long years of exploitation and unregulated fishing their population collapsed. Now they are incredibly scarce and, although in recent years there seems to be an increase in catches and sightings, it isn’t clear if it is an indication of a recovering population or just a shift in distribution. Regardless, they are still firmly listed as critically endangered in the Northeast Atlantic where most of our angling activities take place. This obviously poses some problems and rather uncomfortable questions. 

Those of you who are following me might even remember that just a few days before my friend’s fishing trip, an officer of one of the environmental NGOs expressed his irritation after another angler posted a video of himself landing a skate. Another species of critically endangered fish. That sparked an interesting discussion related to scientific tagging programmes that, by their very nature, require these rare and endangered fish to be caught, boated, tagged and then released.

In this blog, it is not my intention to defend or condemn anyone’s position. As always these situations are complex and there are many factors to consider. For example, is there a landing platform, how quickly is the fish unhooked, and how promptly is it returned to the water? They almost have to be taken on a case by case basis. Instead, I want to share some of my thoughts. I started to ask myself what I would do in my friend’s shoes. Would I pose for a grip-and-grin photo and point out the benefits of a tagging programme? Likely. Would I point fingers at past exploitation by commercial fishermen and contrast it with the negligible impact that anglers have on the shark population? Probably. I have done all of the above before.

Unfortunately, we have to face up to the reality that without changes in the current status-quo, we either run out of fish to catch, some species sooner than others, or we run out of the fish species we are allowed to catch. Most of us anglers talk a lot about the conservation of fish stocks. But do we have the guts to put our money where our mouth is? We talk a lot about fish welfare and the importance of catch & release. But do we have the resolve to not target certain species of fish, even if it’s legal? And would it even matter? Perhaps, the loss of some species is inevitable and the only approach that makes sense is, catch them while you can. Because soon enough they’ll be gone. Forever.

Let me know your thoughts in the comment section down below or on one of my social media pages.

Lockdown Fishing

Like most of you I feel the impact of the covid pandemic. Outdoor pursuits are among the impacted activities. Even though many of them could be considered the original forms of social distancing. Obviously any travel, even very near, is off the table. Luckily for me I have access to a beautiful coastal area just a few hundred meters outside my front door. That of course means that angling is my daily exercise of choice. 

I know a few tried fishing marks in this area. Under normal circumstances, I don’t usually fish them. Ironically, I used to when I lived in the nearby town and had to drive half an hour to reach them. That made me think about how often we overlook what’s within our reach and instead opt for some “better”, more inaccessible, locations for our activities. It’s like the old angling saying, “The biggest perch are always closer to the opposite bank”. Does that sound familiar?

How often does the lockdown force us to discover or rediscover outdoor gems that we overlooked because they are so close and familiar that they seem bland and boring? In any case, I intend to make the best of what I have and, who knows, maybe catch an unexpected specimen fish!

Episode 70: Field Sports with Matt Cross

As regular listeners to the podcast might remember, in episode 47 we hosted Matt Cross, a field sports journalist, writer and blogger. At that time, we talked about yet another unlawful killing of a hen harrier. That episode was specifically focused on the issue of raptor persecution and we didn’t have a chance to tap into Matt’s vast knowledge about field sports.

Today we’re going to fix that as we discuss a number of topics including grouse moors management, rewilding, the ethics of field sports, the difference between the terms “shooting” and “hunting” in the UK context, and the move away from using lead in shooting. I’m sure you will enjoy our conversation.

Episode 67: World Sport Fishing with Richard Sheard

I had the pleasure to fish with Richard a number of years ago on the waters of Bjagos Islands archipelago in Guinea Bissau. That is without a doubt one of the highlights of my angling career. 

Richard runs World Sport Fishing, a fishing and shooting holiday outfit. So if you are after a bucket list angling experience, definitely check out their website or simply give them a call!

I probably waited way too long to invite Richard to the podcast. But today, we finally sat down and had a chat about fulfilling your sport-fishing dreams.