Catch & Release A Healthy Balance
We all know the role that catch and release plays in the sustainability and future of fishing; however, with that set aside, is it a moral issue? I believe that with knowledge, there can be a healthy balance between always keeping your catch and always releasing your catch.
These are a few factors that I base my decision on when keeping a fish:
Stocked or Native
If your fishing in Alberta, you should be aware that stocked fish are unable to reproduce, which voids the argument of compromising fish reproduction. The reason they do this is so that the fish will grow faster, therefore producing better angling opportunities. If you plan on keeping your fish try and find a location that is stocked yearly so that impact is minimal.
Thriving or Struggling
This goes without much explanation, but if the species of fish that are being targeted are at risk of being extinct in a location it would be wise to release your catch.
Some bodies of water can be really muddy from rainy/windy weather or even just dirty from boats and near by pollution. Even the summer heat can effect the quality of the meat you plan on eating. With all these factors in mind, save yourself the hassle of cleaning undesired fish and just let it go.
I Got a Monster
Although large fish are good for bragging rights and photos, they are vital to reproduction (providing they are not a stocked fish). The university of Toronto has collected much research data which provides evidence that larger fish produce higher numbers of stronger offspring and are vital to the future of fishing. It's also widely supported that the smaller pan sized fish meat is more appetizing on the taste buds than the meat from a larger fish.
Don't let your eyes (or pride, for some), be bigger than your stomach. Fish is an enjoyable meal and we all know how great fresh fish is; however, don't catch more then your going to eat. There are good freezing/preserving techniques, but nothing beats eating a fresh catch. Lets be honest, fishing isn't a means of providing food for our families, and it's a lot cheaper to go to the store and purchase your fish from a market, then it is to be a fisherman.
What am I Catching
What kind of meat are you after? white fish? trout? Then choose which species is in most abundance. For example trout; rainbows are stocked throughout the province, so keep a rainbow. Whitefish? Well there are plenty of whitefish; likewise with perch and pike, which have no problems holding a strong population.
Knowing where you stand in the area of catch and release is great, but it can all be negated if you don't plan for proper handling of fish. So plan ahead and consider some of the following tips to increase the chances of survival after the release of your catch; (Just because they swim away doesn't mean they are okay.)
- Always use a net and choose a fish friendly net that doesn't snag the gills or rub the slime off their body
- Never put anything in their gills. Leave your fish in the net and weigh the fish with the net and subtract the weight of the net after
- Don't play the fish for too long
- Try and avoid bait fishing (fish tend to swallow the hook deeper when fishing with bait), making it harder to remove the hook
- Don't struggle to remove a hook. If it doesn't come out easy leave it in the fish's mouth, their body is built to dissolve the hook (causing less damage)
- Don't take them out of the water for longer than you could hold your breath
- Don't touch them with dry hands or coarse gloves
- Plan your process of weighing and taking pictures before you catch a fish (for better pictures always face the sun, using the natural light to produce proper lighting of you holding your fish)
- Nurse the fish in the water until it gets it's strength back. Holding it's tail in one hand and the other hand under the belly, rock it back and forth allowing water to flow through it's gills. Once it gives a kick it should be good to go
- Don't squeeze the fish
- Don't bring a fish to the surface too quickly when fishing in deep waters (Their stomachs will not have time to adjust to the pressure change and it will pop out of their mouth)
My opinion on catch and release might not be your opinion, but there are two things that we should agree on: 1) always be within the confines of the law; fishing is a recreational sport, and risking your gear, your boat, your truck, your license and jail time isn't worth any amount of fish. And 2) stay true to your beliefs; what you believe at home during the week should match your actions on the water on the weekends.