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Hi, I'm a bonefish. Best of luck catching me.

Hi, I’m a bonefish. Best of luck catching me.

Although we live in an abundant universe, many people approach the prospects of socializing and dating with low confidence. How do I meet people?  How will I know if the people I meet will be worthwhile? If there truly are plenty of fish in the sea, perhaps a fisherman’s perspective can offer solutions for how to expand our social circles.

Fisherman’s Tip #1: Avoid Bonefishing

Bonefish are a highly prized game fish that feed on sand flats, in about 1-2 feet of water. As their name suggests, they make poor table fare, but are sought precisely for their elusiveness. Bonefishing is more like hunting. First, you must silently stalk around those sand flats and spot the fish before they spot you. Then, you have to make a perfect cast, landing your shrimp bait right in front of a bonefish’s nose without spooking it. Since bonefish are so smart and alert, you must use very light line, or they will see it and flee. If by some miracle one actually bites, you have set the hook through its rock-solid mouth, and then land it without breaking your line.

For all but the most skilled anglers, bonefishing sucks. It’s a nearly impossible way to catch fish. Yet, people use similar approaches when looking for friends or dates, searching for specific types who are wary and resilient, using specialized “baiting” techniques, in environments that give all the advantage to the person being sought, with low probability of success. It’s not surprising when their efforts fail.

Fisherman’s Tip #2: Practice Trolling                             

One of these is gonna hook something

One of these is gonna hook something

Trolling is the antithesis of bonefishing. It involves pulling baited lines behind a moving boat and traveling around until something bites. You can fish with many rods at once, covering a wide range of water at different depths, using a variety of baits. Sooner or later, your assortment of edibles will pass by some interested fish.

Unlike the targeted approach of bonefishing, trolling is a numbers game—you almost always catch something, but it could be anything, and you don’t have to keep it. If a slimy mackerel or barracuda is cooperative enough to take my bait, I let them go without hesitation, because I know in advance that they’re not to my taste. If trolling for friends or dates happens to hook either a tasteless baitfish or a hungry shark, it’s easy enough to cut them loose and send out more lines for that halibut or sea bass that’s cruising the local waters.

Fisherman’s Tip #3: Hold Onto Your Catch

At the end of the day, she just wasn't for me

At the end of the day, she just wasn’t for me

Professional bass fishermen compete in tournaments in which the angler with the greatest combined weight of five caught bass wins. If the first bass of the day happens to be small, and the fisherman isn’t sure if he wants to keep it or throw it back, he can preserve it in the boat’s live well (an aerated tank, where fish can survive for hours, sometimes days). If fishing remains slow throughout the day, he can hold onto that questionable fish for the final weigh-in, or release it if the bigger, more desirable bass start biting.

For pro bass fisherman, having the option to delay the decision to keep or release a fish is a huge advantage—just as it is for people faced with seizing a social opportunity or letting it go.

Take it from this unlucky but persistent fisherman: you can have success in the social world. Forget bonefishing, troll plenty of baits over a wide area, and if you’re not sure about the value of your “catch,” you can always suspend your judgment about how well you fit, continue fishing, and decide later.

Hali 1by Jason Sackett, LCSW
Professional Staff at CWFL

jsackett@usc.edu

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