Protecting the Resourse:How Much Effect?

-- Last Updated: May-18-06 4:28 PM EST --

In this sites most recent article, author Jerry White advocates recreational fishermen to practice catch and release fishing to help ensure the preservation of fish.

I wonder how much effect this would have. What is the total catch of recreational fisherman and the total catch by commercial fisherman?

Catch and eat
I’ve been holding my tongue on this one. The writer went to considerable effort to preach at us how to fish ethically. Maybe in Florida. His recommendations on how to handle fish that one intends on releasing are good. His philosophy doesn’t work in Colorado where fishermen and hunters have paid for nearly all that the Div. of Wildlife does including raising and stocking fish for fishermen to catch and eat. We have laws governing how many of what size one can take to manage the populations. We have groups like Trout Unlimited who do a great job volunteering to improve habitat and fishing. A few of our wild trout waters are catch and release only. I can’t see the point of harassing the fish just to injure them, tire them out, and throw them back. I guess his preachy, better sportsman than thou tone hooked me. There are radical environmentalists out there who would keep the woods untouched by human hands because we evil humans are just destroyers of Nature. We are nature. Use but don’t abuse.

Ditto Taj

– Last Updated: May-18-06 6:44 PM EST –

Yep, been holding my tongue as well and you summed up the article well. Was a little surprised that the editor ran it as is, but annoying folks sells newspapers. The parts of the article were mostly pretty good with some good tips etc. but the sum of the whole made a poor sermon and left a worse impression of the preacher. Reporting a violation is generally a good thing, but the attitude came over as an out-to-get-you jerk with a hostile attitude toward anyone else on the water. Hope that impression doesn't really reflect White.

It might be fun to spoof it with an article on pulling carrots for a photo and then putting them back in the ground to save the resource.

Tens of millions of salmon will swim past my house within the next four months. They taste good and have good Omega oils. They are far fresher and better than those I don't buy in a market because I know what really fresh salmon tastes like when it is cared for well. It is a harvest resource, not a view resource. All that to confess that I'll most likely eat a few of the millions.

I'm surprised at the suggestion that buying a commercilly caught fish does more to protect the resource than catching and killing the fish yourself. Nonsense. I have worked on a commercial fishing boat, as have my sons. I'm not anti commerical fishing. But the logic is beyond me in suggesting that killing a fish does more damage to the resource than dragging a net across miles of bottom, or long lining or gill or sein netting etc. Killing one or a few sport caught fish has no comparison to the incidental catch and kill of such practices. Buying a fish at the market supports such practices, or supports fish farms and their documented damage.

Releasing a fish might make the releaser feel good, and that's OK in itself. I release far more fish than I keep, almost always without lifting them from the water or even touching them if possible (you can slide a finger and thumb down a leader to a barbless fly in a fish lip and revesre it out, if the fish doesn't flop too much). I think what makes this into a sermon is trying to build a logical and emotional case that everyone else should obey the conscience or preferences of the writer.

I can picture the carrot preservation! There’s not much better than fresh salmon unless it’s fresh halibut. I used to get both when I lived in Alaska. Silver salmon is a melt in your mouth treat.

Halibut or salmon, tough choice
Taj, then you know what fresh tastes like. For one meal, I’d take fresh salmon, and coho is superb. For more frequent meals, I’d make it halibut.

I was editing my earlier post to add a bit while you posted.

Catch and release fishing depends on
the species and body of water. For some fish, its the right approach, though probably not with stocked trout, especially if the purpose of the fishery is to provide instant success to occasional fishermen, even more so it because of water conditions such as temperture and clarity the stream or water body will not support a self-sustaining fishery.

I paddled up a stream known for catch and release trout fishing. What I saw soured me on catch and release. There a lot of very nice trout that were dead or dying. By a lot mean over 40. The dying ones were holding in the current and you could see the fungus infections very clearly. The fish totaly ignored my kayak.

Release or dump to avoid cleaning?

– Last Updated: May-23-06 12:25 PM EST –

kfsrmn, I've been likewise appalled and angered from observing catch and release fish killers.

1. On a pristine creek in California's high Sierras, hatchery planted trout, I watched a fisherman hook and land a hefty rainbow of 14 inches. The fisherman was standing on a boulder about ten feet above the water, apparenty so he could stay in the shade. He wrapped his hand and fingers around the trout behind the head and stuck his fingers into the gills to get a better grip. The blood started to flow. He probed around and after a bit pulled out the hook with apparently some of the trout's gullet ripped out with it. I was about 30 feet away, straight across the creek, not fishing.

I assumed he'd bonk the fish and and keep it, and was a little surprised that he hadn't put it out of its misery sooner, when he casually and lazily half dropped and half tossed the trout back toward the creek below. He put another salmon egg on his hook. The tossed fish landed on a dirt slope about halfway to the creek, flopped its way onto a ledge, by now covered with dust stuck all over its body, and then managed to flop itself back into the creek. Three dead trout were belly up at the lower end of the pool.

I was enraged. That is "throw it away so I don't have to clean it" rather than catch and release.

2. Fraser River, B.C. An old guy fishing beside me during combat sockeye season landed a bright sockeye, finishing his limit for the morning. We'd started together at daylight and I knew how many he'd caught. I wanted to move into his spot if he was leaving so asked if he was done. He was kneeling on the fish on cobble rock, jabbing fingers into the gills and mouth trying to get the hook out. The salmon was gushing blood from its gills. The guy answered, "No, I'm going to release this one."

Maybe I should have kept quiet, because fishing ettiquette on the Fraser basically says not to speak to other fishermen. I said, "That fish is all but dead and won't survive, bleeding like that."

The guy glared at me, looked at the fish and grudgingly put it in his sack.

As a member of

– Last Updated: May-21-06 11:05 AM EST – and the Potoamc River Smallmouth Club, we're constantly preaching the CPR message. (CPR= Catch Photo Relaease)

Here in the mid atlantic we have active degredation and fish die-offs on going even as we type. I call these die-offs, because no single cause can be pin-pointed with any kind of statistical and scientific certianty...yet.

High fecalcoliform bacteria loads and amonia levels FAR above normal have coupled together to kill off almost 80 percent of the adult Smallmouth (12inches and above) and virtually ALL Bluegill/Sunfish in the Shenandoah in last 5 years. Most of this comes from agricultural activity and development along the rivers. Just as our drought (and the stress 'that' causes on the spawns, de-watering historical beds and lowering dissolved Oxygen levels) came to a close, high water/Increased bateria loads colluded to wreak even more havok.

Catch and Release for us is not only the 'right' thing to's absolutely esential to return those fish capable of spawning back to the rivers. Here in the Chesapeke Bay watershead we live within a days drive 70% of the entire country's population and our rivers, which use to be some of the finiest smallmouth fiheries in the natio, see a LOT of heavy recreational use. Not just fishing, but boating, camping, vacation homes built right on the river, etc. It is vital that we do everything we can to help these rivers recover and Catch and Release is just one part of that effort.

Simple things we all can do:

Take out your trash with you. It may be just paper...but paper contains chemicals these days.

If you have a vacation home on the river..leave a 50 foot Raparian area along the banks, this area will absorb and process runoff from your property.

Report violators of the established slot limits when you see them. Most of time, the simple act of making sure they know you see them and raising a cell phone to your ear (or anything that looks like a cell) will cause them to either stop fishing and sometimes to even dump their buckets.

Particpate in cleanup days, go County and state meetings on the[ecially where it concerns water quality...write letters to editors and developers and your state reps. It all helps

If you live in the mid-atlantic: keep these numbers handy

Wildlife Violations: VA 800-237-5712
MD 800-635-6124
WV 800-638-4263
PA 911

Seroisly..these states WANT you to help them police the outdoors. VA has only 150 Wardens to cover the entire state...they need your help and I have heard VDGIF and Game Wardens tell me face to face they apppreciate the phone calls...They can't be everywhere at once.

Most catch and release fishing doesn’t
involve fish that are also commercial fish. In the case of largemouth bass, limits both on numbers caught and size have helped the fishery, as it has for many other species. The same can be said especially for redfish and speckled trout in Texas bays. Of course, taking them off the menu at restaurants didn’t hurt…no more blackened redfish, yeah. Catch and releash has its postives. One definite negative is when a fish isn’t legal size, has been hurt during the catching, and has to be returned to die anyway. One can always hope the gators, turtles, or other fish eat it.

Catch and release a mixed bag

– Last Updated: May-22-06 2:45 AM EST –

I'm pro catch and release, if it is done well, but may not have seemed so in my earlier posts. In some areas it is crucial to healthy stocks of fish, and these are good posts to mention some of them in specific areas. In other contexts, catch and release sport fishing is virtually irrelevant to fish populations.

However, catch and release has to be done well, with the health of the fish in mind or it is merely killing a fish plus wasting it, where it is neither eaten nor survives to propagate.

Except for a few fly fishermen, most of the people that I've observed practicing catch and release are killing the fish. I don't know if it is ignorance or carelessness. Ignorance is hard to believe when catch and release how-to info is printed in nearly all fishing regs anymore, in fishing articles, etc. etc.

I really think that the catch and release mantra, almost an article of faith among urban fishermen, has spawned a breed of mutant fishermen. These people use "catch and release" to let themselves feel OK about throwing fish away. Whether the fish are dead or alive is irelevant. The important mantra is that they "released" the fish and didn't keep it, making them better than anybody who might eat one. And most of their released fish are clearly dead or dying.

I wish that there was a little more common sense and trustfulness allowed about keeping injured fish. In a private lake, catch and release only, we released several nice rainbows, when one started bleeding badly from the gills and was obviously going to die. Private lake, company policy rather than a game law violation. An executive and I took the big rainbow up to his cabin and added it to supper. We both worked for the company, and both had a personal strong interest in keeping the fish population in that lake healthy. We were both strongly for catch and release, but not for wasting a tasty fish that was dead anyway.

Another day, fishing for salmon from a rubber raft dinghy in a saltwater bay, I foul hooked a 43 lb. Chinook. Foul hooked fish are illegal to keep, and must be released. Hard fight, healthy fish, my biggest of a day when we released many, so I slid him onto the lap of my wet raingear for a quick photo with his belly supported and then back into the drink about as fast as reading this sentence takes.

But the powerful fish jerked his head to one side as he slid from my lap, jamming my fingers into his gills. He gushed blood as he swam slowly away, with a cloud of red blossoming around him. I still feel bad about taking the photo. About three minutes later I noticed him on the surface about 40 feet away, swimming very slowly, almost at a dead stop, red cloud of blood around him. I asked my partner to ease me over to the fish with the oars, and said that if the fish was lethargic enough to let me grab the small of his tail with my hands and hang on, that I was going to keep him. That's how I know thaqt he weighed 43 lbs. and was tasty. Punched him out as part of my legal daily limit. Illegal? Wrong?

Release tool
If you have to C&R here is a link describing a nifty tool that I use frequently on the ones too small to keep. It works well with flys, can’t say about other hooks.

By some posts it’s obvious that there are areas of the country where C&R is the only option to keep a fish population. I can’t see myself hooking them just for sport.


– Last Updated: May-24-06 11:00 AM EST –

Law knows nothing. It is up to the authorities to determine what is the right thing to do. I have seen good and bad game wardens. The good ones would allow you to go on your way in those circumstances. The bad ones will check your barbless hooks with a cotton swab while ignoring blatent violators because they wont speak English and ignore the citations. I got into it with a game warden right after I released a wild stealhead. Never took it out of the water or touched it. Used my pliers to remove the barbless hook from its lip. You are only allowed to keep hatcery fish (clipped fin) so wild ones have to be released.

I’m aware of the reason for foul hook
regulations, snagging is a problem among meat fishermen where fish tend to school or concentrate because of bait being readily available. But, in the case of a foul hooked otherwise legal fish, I’ve no problems with it being added to your limit, especially if injured so badly it will not survive. You did the right thing, unless, of course, there was a hungry shark ready to take him off your hands.

The biggest mistake I see in those who
try catch and release is in areas like not wetting the hand before unhooking the fish and holding the fish the wrong way, especially not giving the body support. Also, its not common among freshwater fishermen to watch the fish or to slowly bring it forward in the water a few times to help it recover before releasing. With bass fishermen, its typical to grab the fish by the lower jaw, that’s fine and minimizes hand contact with the fish, but too many fishermen also hold the fish straight out by the lower jaw to show off their catch.

Barbless hooks are pretty common with trout fishermen, but not so with those who fish other species. Partly, there’s always the fear that the fish will get away. I fish mainly for catfish, bluegill, and largemouth bass. Has anyone used barbless hooks with those species

Yes, constantly…
I also use Circle Hooks when using bait. I have found that small gold egg hooks (Common for trout) work wonders for bluegill and crappie!


I use almost exclusively circles and
kahle hooks when fishing for catfish, though I’m rethinking the circles for cats. I’ve had several swallow the hook deep, especially small not legal ones and had to return them to the water to die (kept the legal ones) Fortunately, one place I fish has an abundance of gators and gar, so dead fish doesn’t usually go to waste. My favorite place to bluegill fish is one where the average size is 8". The gold hooks bend too easily and I use primarily a mustad hook that has a long shank in a # 6. I don’t lose too many to the hook with the long shank and its easy to remove. Haven’t tried circles for bluegill, though been thinking about it.

Some really good comments above…

Yep, many anglers use catch and release “ethics” as a justification for simply throwing away fish they don’t want to clean. Many anglers don’t handle fish right and release them only to die later. Catch and release is a great thing, IF practiced well, and IF the resource base calls for it.

Theoretically, regulations are fashioned with the optimum welfare of the resource in mind, and if the regs say you can keep a few fish, then it should be okay to keep a few. Unfortunately, in too many cases the regs are “one size fits all”, while every stream or lake is different. For instance, here in Missouri the limit on stream bass is 6 fish, 12 inch length limit, with exceptions on some stream sections that are being managed for bigger smallmouths. That regulation is fine for some of the larger streams, but when it comes to a lot of small creeks, one or two anglers, keeping a limit a few times a year, can make a serious dent in the population of adult fish. I fish a couple of creeks where I could virtually wipe out the population of 12 inch and larger bass if I fished them maybe 5 times a summer and kept a limit, all by myself. Instead, I never fish any section of these creeks more than once a year, and very carefully release all the fish I catch.

So…seems to me that the truly “ethical” angler should get to know the regulations on the waters he fishes, know the rational (if any) behind the regs, and know the state of the fish population. Then, he can make his own decision on whether to keep fish up to the legal limit or not. There are certainly times where what I call “knee-jerk” catch and release actually harms the fish population. Too many small fish, or an invasive species, and releasing everything you catch is NOT a good thing. For instance, in the river system I fish the most, non-native, invasive spotted bass have been seriously displacing the native smallmouths. To combat this, anglers are encouraged to keep spotted bass, which have a 12 fish limit and no length limit, on these streams. Yet the vast majority of bass anglers, with the catch and release mentality drummed into them or else with no inclination to take fish home to eat, still release all the spotted bass, all the while bemoaning the decline of the smallmouth fishery.

On the other hand, the bass is an
alien fish in some waters, the gar fish, bowfin, and buffalo (fresh water drum) being the real natives. The latter three are often seen as trash fish that harm the bass fishery. Myself, hey, I’m proud just to catch a fish. I release these trash fish, not good eating anyway, except maybe the buffalo, but many kill and thow them back in the water.

Good perception, CPR

– Last Updated: May-23-06 12:20 PM EST –

Good point about blanket regulations more restrictive than needed for some waters and too lax for others. Probably not many outdoorspeople know their forest and streams as you do. I'm pleasantly impressed.

The same is true of some trout creeks out west.

And sometimes I get fooled. I winced at a Native Indian harvest of fish on the spawning beds, sacks and tubs full of fish, from a small lake that I often fished. But the fishing rapidly got better! In hind sight, the lake had been over populated with small fish without enough to eat. After the reduction by several hundred trout, maybe a thousand, within months the average fish size in that lake was much larger, and we caught about as many.