Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Catch & Release Fishing

As we get into the heart of the fishing season I'd like to comment on the topic of Catch and Release (C&R) fishing.   It is a topic that can be contentious at times if not broached properly as there are those who believe in 100% catch and release, while others aim to retain every fish they can (sometimes legal or not!).   Personally, I practice C&R 95% of the time, the pleasure for me is getting out and enjoying my excursions into nature on my kayak.   Bringing home a meal of the fish is sometimes a nice bonus, but typically the last thing on my mind when I fish.    

The goal of catch and release as I see it is to protect the fish population.   We should all want to see our kids, and grandkids, have all the same fishing opportunites we have when they are our age.   For species that may be endangered or susceptible to declining numbers, catch and release is a great strategy to employ.   It allows one to continue to enjoy fishing for these species, while at the same time having minimal impact on the population.   

Of course to practice catch and release properly, you have to treat the fish delicately.    Otherwise you risk killing the fish, even if you don't realize it at the time.   Some species like salmon can sustain critical injuries simply by holding it wrong or foul hooking it.   Other species like sturgeon are very rugged and durable.   Even foul hooking a sturgeon more often than not will see the hook only penetrate about a millimeter into it's leathery skin causing no damage.     Regardless of the species, it is important that you take care to never hold the fish by the gills (as I have absentmindedly done from time to time), return it to the water as soon as possible.    For any fish not able to swim off immeadiately, hold it in the water for a few seconds while it recovers enough to swim off on it's own.

Personally I do not practice 100% catch and release, I will from time to time retain a fish.    Typically I look to retain 1 sturgeon a year, 1 or 2 stripers in the 28 - 34" range if I'm lucky enough to catch them, and the odd meal of perch.    While I haven't caught many trout here in NB (hopefull to improve on that this year!), I would like to keep one meal a year of them, but that is all I'd keep.    If my kids catch a few white perch that are suitable for the dinner table, we would bring them home as the kids would obviously be very proud they caught the family meal.

There are topics related to C&R fishing that I could get into, such as the attitudes of some anglers to catch as many meals of trout as they possibly can, or the ability of native fisherman to catch as many fish as they please without consequence.    Also, the inabiity of refusal by the Canadian governments to protect the fish stocks in the Ocean is another related topic that makes my blood boil.    These are angles that I do have strong feelings about, but would prefer to avoid for the time being.    Feel free to contact me though if you wish to chat about them!

While the weather is good, grab a rod, go catch a fish and release it to be caught again.   It's a rewarding experience and one you should share and teach to your kids!

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