SNYDER: Outdoors TV, reality have little in common


I couldn’t sleep earlier this week and decided to grab the remote and see what was on TV.

As I got higher and higher through the channels, I found a channel I didn’t know we got. It’s all fishing … all day.

Fishing shows have been a bittersweet part of the sport for the last couple of decades. They bring attention to the sport, for sure, but reality is rarely a part of the typical fishing show. I know, because I’ve been there. I’ve been on the other end of the lens.

When they first hopped aboard, I was excited to have the TV crew along for a day of fishing. It is every charter-boat captain’s dream to have his expertise and his boat permanently captured on film.

But then the cameras started to roll and my day turned anything but normal.

“We just need to catch two fish,” the host told me. “One to introduce the show with and one to make the fishing look real.”

Real? The only thing “real” about that day was the heaving seas and the producer’s difficulty in holding down his lunch.

The taping solidified an idea I’ve toyed with but was too stubborn to admit. So many of these hunting and fishing shows are doing more harm to our sport than good.

Sure, a nonstop marathon of casting and blasting is a great way to “get outdoors” when you’re stuck waiting for the mother-in-law to get out of the bathroom. And I will admit the shows have helped bring attention to our conservation efforts.

But what about the commercialization of what once were “everyman” sports? For many sportsmen these days, having the same gun and the same camo pattern as the celebrity hunters is just as important as keeping up with the latest offerings from the Kardashians.

I don’t like to see a day on the water turn into a fashion statement. I also don’t like it when I run into anglers who think fishing should be as effortless and as productive as what we see during a 21-minute show. It’s not. It’s not even comparable.

The camera crew that came aboard our boat didn’t care about the late night spent spooling a dozen deep-water reels. It didn’t care about the three-hour hunt to find a bait shop with exactly what I needed. Or the growing valve tap in the port engine that was bound to turn into a costly overhaul.

Nope, they didn’t care what the sport was truly about. The crew just wanted a handful of grip-and-grin shots so it could weave together an episode that was better than the last.

That’s what has me worried. So many so-called sportsmen turn on their 24-hour feed of outdoor programming and think that’s what the outdoors are about — killing big animals and looking good doing it.

Then, when they finally get off the couch and hit the woods or the water, they get frustrated when they find out that success rarely comes easy.

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They forget about the thrill of scouting a new territory, the hours of experimenting to find the perfect rig, and most important, the feeling of camaraderie and belonging that comes with spending time outdoors with a friend. You can’t get that sort of bond in the eight-minute span between beer and truck commercials.

Maybe I’m cynical or just flat out missing the point. It’s happened before. But I say the only true way to experience Mother Nature is to get out there and see her in living color.

Andy Snyder writes about the outdoors for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at