Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Should Anglers Always Catch and Release? A "She's So Fly" Spot Light

(Sherri Russell, editor of She's So Fly)

Note from the Editor: "There seems to be a lot of controversy among She's So Fly followers on the topic of fish catch and release.   I personally support and practice the sport of catch and release in our rivers and streams because the fish travel upstream through these tributaries to spawn.  I realize that not every angler practices catch and release, and some like to keep and eat their catch.  

I can remember fishing for lake perch and bluegills as a young girl with my uncle and having a family fish fry after cleaning them.   I think the fish were more plenty back then and conservation awareness was limited, there was more government funding to re-stock fish in our lakes and rivers, gas prices were lower, jobs were plenty, life was basically carefree and good.  

Unfortunately, the world has been through many changes since 35 years ago when I was a young girl and with pollution, endangered species, etc....people need to be more aware and accountable for their actions to preserve and protect our natural resources for others to enjoy in the future.  For example, one female salmon fish caught full of eggs can wipe out an entire generation for future anglers to enjoy.

I have close friends that keep and eat their catch to this day and I am not going to stop being their friend just because we disagree, especially when they have been great friends to me for many years - that would be stupid and ignorant on my part.  I can only help educate them to limit their catch.

I personally know many professional fishing guides that do and don't let their clients keep fish from the rivers.  For some of the guides that don't, maybe should let some clients keep a single fish once in a while - and educate their clients on conservation and selective harvesting vs. letting that client go with another guide that does allow their clients to keep 2 or 3 fish each trip and teaching them nothing.  I also know that many Michigan great lake charters let their clients keep fish, but the fish are not spawning and keeping fish is more common practice in larger bodies of water, at least in the state of Michigan.

To those of you anglers who keep and eat your catch, I strongly encourage you to follow your local, state or country regulations as to size, limits and seasons for species etc and limit the amount of fish you keep - and put the smaller fish back.  I also strongly encourage anglers not to keep females which have not spawned yet - there are plenty of methods to successfully catch fish other than using spawn to do so.  

We all need to do our part to preserve our fish population for future generations of anglers.  

In conclusion, I found this article to be interesting and I thought I would share it with my readers"

Should fishermen always catch and release?
by Charles W. Bryant

Fly fishing is one of the recommended methods for a successful catch and release. See more pictures of fishing.

Ask any fisherman, and he'll tell you that there's nothing quite like the tug of a fish on the end of the line. Once you land your catch, there's a decision to make -- keep it or release it. Most times the decision is made for you. Rivers and lakes all over the world are managed by wildlife organizations governed by agencies like the U.S. Department of Interior. These groups spend a great deal of time studying fish populations in the lakes, rivers and oceans of the world. Based on the findings of these studies, limits are imposed on the number, size and species of fish that can be kept. There are also rules regulating where and when fishing is allowed to take place in a body of water or region. These rules change with the growth or decline of a particular species. It's called wildlife management, and it's an important part of ensuring that fish thrive in the future.

Fish populations are at risk though, according to some studies. One such study found that as many as four out of 10 freshwater species in North America are in danger of approaching extinction [source: Borenstein]. Much of the blame goes to water pollution and other damage to the natural habitat, but some of it can be placed on overfishing. Oceans are in even worse shape. Marine biologists in Nova Scotia believe that all saltwater fish and seafood species could collapse by the year 2048.

But the rules don't cover every species in every habitat. Many times the restrictions leave room for each angler to make a decision whether to catch and release or keep the fish for dinner. Is the practice of catch and release the environmentally responsible thing to do or are there occasions where keeping the fish can actually help the population thrive?

Catch and Release Fishing: Behind the Numbers

The use of a landing net can have a negative effect on the health of a fish.

Fishing is a huge industry. The 44 million Americans who consider themselves recreational anglers spend a whopping $41 billion each year on the sport. When you consider the additional economic activity that fishing generates, like gas to and from the site or food for the trip, just to name a couple, you're looking at roughly $116 billion in total revenue. That's a lot of money. If you only considered the economics of fishing, then catch and release makes a lot of sense. When fish are caught and released back into the habitat, they'll breed and spawn more fish that can potentially be caught and released.

The fishing industry is mostly self-supported as well. The agencies that oversee and regulate the sport are largely paid for by money generated from the sale of fishing permits. The concept of catch and release and fishing for sport in the United States is relatively new. While the United Kingdom has been using catch and release as a method of conservation for the past 100 years, Americans didn't catch on until the early 1950s, and even then it didn't gain in popularity until catch-and-release fishing tournaments were born in the early 1970s. Previous to this, anglers fished for one reason -- to put food on the table. And while recreational fishing is still a viable means of providing food, an increasing number of fishermen are in it for the sport.

So should you always catch and release? Not necessarily. It's acceptable to fish for your dinner as long as you abide by the limits imposed by the state agencies. A lot of research goes into the kinds of limits imposed, and the governing bodies have a good hold on what kinds of fishing practices are best for any given region. Limits are generally imposed on the size of the fish and the total number of fish you can take from a body of water. If you fish within these limits and during the allowed time frame, then you aren't doing anything to decimate the fish population. Low income families in some parts of the United States still depend on rivers and lakes to provide a portion of their food, so in these cases it's not so much sport fishing as a means of providing sustenance.

The argument for strictly catch-and-release practices is mainly built around conservation. In Florida, where fishing is extremely popular, about 50 percent of fish that are caught are released back into the water. This amounts to more than 70 million fish released each year. In Australia, 30 to 50 percent of the recreational catch is released each year for a total of about 47 million fish. If these fish and others caught worldwide were all kept, the fish population would be in even more trouble than it already is.

The National Park Service of the United States encourages 100 percent catch and release of native species. When non-native fish are introduced into the water from a practice known as stocking, they compete with the native species for food and space. The National Park Service no longer stocks its waters with non-natives, but they depend on catch and release to help maintain the native species. The key here is to keep non-native fish according to the region's limitations. If only non-native fish are kept, then the native varieties are allowed to thrive, and the population can be restored.

Catch and Release Mortality and Techniques

A circle hook stands a better chance at keeping the fish injury-free.

The practice of catch and release as a means of wildlife conservation has one catch -- ensuring that the released fish lives. Researchers have performed hundreds of controlled studies all over the world to determine which methods of hooking, landing, reeling the fish in and releasing are most likely to result in a healthy fish that can go on to reproduce. If improper techniques are used, and the released fish dies, then it defeats the purpose of releasing in the first place.

Studies on tarpon in Florida found that 26 out of 27 of the fish caught with a hook and line survived after they were released. The lone fish that died had been lifted from the water and photographed by the fishermen who caught it. Bonefish in the Florida Keys have a 95 percent survival rate upon release. Eighty-four percent of redfish in Georgia and 96 percent of redfish in Texas live after release. And in California, 95 percent of brown trout that are released survive. These numbers indicate that if an angler uses the proper technique for hooking, landing and releasing, then the fish has a great chance at surviving and ultimately reproducing.

So what's the proper technique? It starts before you even hook the fish. Using the proper tackle is key to the fish's survival, and it starts with the fishing line. A strong line is better because it helps to land the fish faster. Landing is simply the act of bringing a fish to land, or in some cases to a boat. A fast landing puts less physiological stress on the fish and helps its chances at survival. You can choose to fish with live bait or artificial bait -- man-made lures and flies with hooks attached. Fish caught with lures and flies have a higher survival rate than those caught with live bait because they're more likely to hook in the mouth area and not deeper into the body. There are also a few things to look for in the hook. First, it should be appropriately sized for the kind of fish you're trying to catch. There's also a choice to be made between J-hooks, circle hooks and barbed or barbless varieties.

J-hooks look like what you might think -- the letter 'J.' Circle hooks also look like a letter 'J,' but the bottom of the hook is a bit wider and the end of the 'J' curves back in toward the stem instead of extending straight up. The point of a circle hook is also curved even farther toward the stem. Studies show that circle hooks usually hook the fish by the jaw, the optimal place to hook a fish. This is what's known as a shallow hook. When the hook goes further into the body and attaches to the gills or internal organs, it's called a deep hook. Deep hooking often results in injury, so even though circle hooks are slightly more difficult to remove, they're recommended for catch and release.

Other tips for a successful fish release:

Decide beforehand that you're going to release and make the catch-and-release process speedy.

Don't remove the fish from the water. Or, if you do, limit its time out of the water to less than four minutes.

Remove the hook by hand or with needle-nose pliers instead of a de-hooking device.

Use barbless hooks or crimp the barbs with pliers to avoid tearing the fish's flesh.

Wet your hands or gloves before handling the fish to avoid removing the outer mucous membrane layer that protects the fish's skin.

Don't use a landing net.

Reintroduce the fish into the water headfirst.

Article source:

What is your opinion - should fishermen always catch and release?  We can agree to disagree - please post your comments below.


Anonymous said...

There are so many good eating species whos' population will never be affected by how many are killed, however I don't believe steelhead to be one of them (my opinion). Most old timers will tell you the runs these days are nothing like they used to be and after seeing a guide just last week on your local mo with eight pieces of steel on a stringer with 2 clients in the boat makes me sick!! I hope someone can step up and start calling the fish killing guides out as they should have their head examined.

Sherri Russell said...

I agree that fishing guides should have a responsibility to educate others in conservation. Each client should have only been able to keep one fish. I wish I knew which guide service it was and I would ask them why they allowed so many to be kept. Do you know which guide service it was?

Anonymous said...

The guide I was fishing with knew him and said that is the norm. I will not put my guide on the spot regarding this, as he as well as you have to live and work in that area which understandably makes it more difficult to be controversial. I hope your state can develope more stringent regs in the coming years as the fishery in which you have is very special and should be preserved. One of my favorite places anywhere!!!

Sherri Russell said...

I can certainly appreciate that fact. But, we cannot change things without controversy sometimes. I know a lot of the guides withing this area because I have lake front cottage rentals and accomodate many of their out of town guests that fish the Muskegon River. I just fished the Muskegon River yesterday and was amazed at the lack of evidence of Fall Salmon spawning...if people do not stop taking so many fish, they will depleat the population so far that it will take many years past my lifetime for the fish to return back to this area. I appreciate your comments and participation with in blog and encourage you to do so more in the future.

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