My kid, a dyed-in-the-wool Swiftie, surprised me when she didn’t have much to say about the alleged “beef” between her hero Taylor Swift and up-and-comer Olivia Rodrigo. Rodrigo has a new album out GUTS, and is one of the very few artists (another being alt-country crooner Zach Bryan) capable of breaking through Ursula’s mostly Swift playlist.

My kid surprised me further the other day in the car, when she began a resuscitation of the rumored objects of Rodrigo’s songs. Ursula has a parasocial relationship with all kinds of celebrities, so I took a moment to remind her that the rumors circulating online are often fabricated stories, click-bait and occasionally outright lies.

And if you’re now wondering, what in the world this has to do with fishing (phishing?) let me now clue you in….

I don’t like to admit it, but my own socials are filled with anglers and outdoor news from all corners of the globe. Part of this is professional and part of it is personal, so there’s a mixture of paid journalists like myself, a few friends, and guides and other sources — it’s a diverse group, in other words, linked together most often by fish.

So when I saw a recent story about how the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration had been under-counting recreational harvest of red snapper and other Gulf Coast species, I didn’t think twice about sharing this with my buddies. It appeared a good news-bad news sort of story, focussed on findings that maybe there are more fish in the sea than previous counted, and arguing that the feds ought to let up on some of the strict conservation limits.

The story ran in Outdoor Life, and I passed it on like a teenager spilling tea bout Taylor Swift’s latest boyfriend.

Well, I don’t know if the OL reporter had been snookered, but it did not take long to discover that the story was not what it seemed. The eye-catching headline should have been a giveaway, making it sound like NOAA had ignored its own statistics, which on closer review doesn’t seem to be the case. And the group behind the new study turned out to be something called the Center for Sportfishing Policy, a heavily partisan group backed by boat builders and marinas. It appears similar to anti-vaxxers and gun-rights advocates, CSP hates hates science and regulation in equal measure.

“Rather than having a plate of delicious snapper, we have been served a heaping spoonful of injustice,” concludes one charter captain in the article. But another way to look at it is that federal limits have helped improve catch rates.

As I dug in, I found that the Harte Research Institute out of Corpus Christi, an organization known for straight shooting (and whose staff has helped me on a few stories) found that red snapper are not only found near the inshore reefs and artificial structure where most anglers focus. There are a lot of fish in the open waters, spread out and also hard to target if you’re headed offshore on a Saturday afternoon. So, in addition to the well-known habit of fishermen and -women exaggerating their catches in official surveys, there appears a wealth of disorganized fish life in the Gulf.

The real culprit in all this is the heavy influence of commercial fishery interests over state and federal rule-making, and I think that if it’s not an industry front, the CSP is playing into their hands. For I have seen how these issues play out on the East Coast with striped bass, and I kick myself for taking the bait, hook, line and sinker.