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May 25, 2007

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Catch & Release … smart, yes; noble, not always.

Catch & ReleaseWell, we might as well open this Pandora’s Box early in the life of FFLOGGER. Catch-and-release fishing. Yes, I am a catch-and-release flyfisher. Except in rare occasions when I want to eat the fish I just caught.

For the record, I haven’t killed a trout in three years. But that’s more selfish than noble. Why, you ask? Because I enjoy catching trout more than I enjoy eating trout. When I let them go, I think, “See you later, you poor thing, I’ll be back to work you over again someday.” So I'm a mugger rather than a killer.

Is catch-and-release about preserving a resource? Yes. Do old photos of 125-pound tarpon (not good eating by most standards) strung on a line churn my stomach? Absolutely. Does it upset me when people keep coolers of fish that will only end up freezer-burned and eventually discarded? Of course. Do I bend down my barbs, and think catch-and-release flyfishing is worthwhile and important? You bet.

But let’s not kid ourselves. Catch-and-release done wrong is selfish. It’s a simple issue of motive.

Jim Harrison offered the best perspective on the matter I’ve ever read. He said, “Catch-and-release is sensible, which shouldn’t be confused with virtuous. ‘I beat the shit out of you but I didn’t kill you’ is not clearly understood by the fish. This is a blood sport, and if you want a politically correct afterglow, you should return to golf.”

I advocate catch-and-release fishing, on the rivers, in the lakes, and on the ocean. But I’m not about to stand on this soap-box and say I haven’t kept a striper, or a salmon, or a redfish, or even a trout for a meal, now and then. And statistics will show you that mortality rates among fish caught and released are likely higher than you’d want to know, some say as high as 20 percent, depending on the species, and factors like water temperature. The guy who nets, manhandles, de-slimes, and half-suffocates 30 fish while his buddy fumbles for the camera -- but lets them all go -- is tougher on the resource than the guy who pops a couple trout in the creel.

Every fish left in the river on a Monday night makes for better fishing in the river on Tuesday morning. But take time to think about how you go about catching and releasing fish. Actions speak louder than words.


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Of course we fish them for both sport and need. But anyone who thinks it is in-humane should get the hell of this page and join something retarded like PETA.


Only have to remember:

Catch and release is a management tool.

Not a religion.

Len *spinner* Harris


I'm like Kirk, love to fish for them but don't really like to eat them. My wife thinks I'm crazy to spend all the time and effort to catch a fish only to let it go but she's missing the best part!

Paul #2

Once again, an excellent article! But maybe the nations #1 trout conservation organization can be of help in this situation. Practice trout C.P.R. Consider-Proper-Release Rules
#1 Don't play fish to exhaustion.Use a net.
#2 handle fish in the net.Grasp across the back and head.
#3 Turn fish belly-up while removing hooks.
#4 Don't remove swallowed hooks. Just cut the line.
#5 Don't keep fish out of the water for more than 10-15 seconds,if at all possible.


If resources are plentiful, meaning fish, then you damn well better believe that if the catching is good, so will be the eating that night for me. However, any fishman with the same idealism should make sure not to over-fish any body of water because that is selfish. I do agree with you Paul, putting a fish on the dinner table is not the best part of fishing. To me the best part about fishing is being with good friends on the water somewhere shooting the bull while the sun goes down, and whether we catch a lot or none at all there's always a smile on our faces. If you can't catch a fish, you can at least try to catch a buzz. If you can't have a good time when you're fishing then you should probably find a good psychiatrist...that's my thoughts on fishing.


fihing is what you do to eat not to have fun. Fishing is boring, catching and eating is the exiting part. (at least it is to me.)If you work so hard all day to catch that fish you better eat it, it's your reward for a long day of hunger.
i'd even eat a nasty old perch of i caught one!


if you don't think catch and release is vital to sustaining a fishery, look at some of the great rivers out west. the Bighorn, in its first thirteen miles, averages around 5000 trout per mile. that's 65,000 trout available to the fishermen. during the summer months, the river supports well over 200 fishermen per day. let's say each fisherman, from June 1 through August 1, caught and kept five fish,(which would be legal). that's 60,000 trout. by practicing catch and relaese, this great fishery thrives and supports a year-round trophy opportunity.


Tom hits it exactly on the mark. Nice post. Hondo ... pop for a fish sandwich at McDonald's and free up some space on the water for those who appreciate fishing.


Demographically, humans have high survivorship, most fish have low survivorship. That means that few fish reach large size, the rest have died for various resaons. Catch, keep and eat the pan-sized fish. Release the BIG ones: they didn't get that way by being genetically inferior.


I commend anyone who practices catch and release. I live in Pennsylvania and some of the small streams are fished out one week after being stocked. The same people who left with a five trout limit are walking around asking smaller kids if they want any fish. If your not going to eat them release them. I eat one trout everyyear on opening weekend at our camp cookout and will not keep another fish all year. Then we can all fish another day.


It's up to the individual angler whether he/she decides to keep or release. I don't fault myself or anyone that decides to keep a fish for a meal. Have I released fish? Sure-probably more than I've kept. But I think those whom fish for sport only, and demand that all fisherman release their catch ought to get a new hobby.
We buy fishing licenses so the states can determine the sustainability of a species, and that's why we have season and creel limits. If it's legal to catch and eat, by all means do so!


Fishing boring? You only fish to eat? Fishing is not fun? Eating fish is exciting? You, my friend, should sell your tackle and frequent the fish sections of your local supermarket and seafood restaurants.

Fishing can be three things for me:

Therapy - Relaxing by casting flies to waiting trout takes my mind off the troubles of the world, especially when surrounded by the beauty of nature in most of the streams I fish.

Excitement - What is not exciting about the anticipation of a big lunker - trout, bass, tarpon, etc. - nailing your offering? When it happens, is it worth the wait? You bet!

Food - I do not enjoy trout, but crappie, bluegill, or catfish fillets from my catch make a fine alternative to the beef, pork, and poultry from the factory farms.

I advocate catch and release of most species, but have no problem with legal harvesting. My only gripe is when a large egg-laden female is kept for a trophy. But that is my heartburn to bear.


We fly into Northern Ontario to fish walleye and pike every year. Last year our group caught 1,651 fish in 7 days. Obviously the vast majority are released. Between shore lunch and take-home the total kept was less than 50. So, we fish for sport and to a much lesser degree for food.


I would much rather be mugged than mugged and killed. I also dont consider catching a fish "mugging" it. Maybe yall do it different. Just my 2 cents.




A good rule of thumb for releasing fish that I use is:
1.)Hold your breath at the moment you take the fish out of the water while removing the hook, when you need air, the fish needs to be back in the water for oxygen.
2.)Always make sure your hands are wet before handling a fish.
3.) Use a net when possible on larger fish. Banging the fish on the rocks or ground while you try handle it for release is not good for it.
4.)While fighting a big fish remember to land it quick as possible, have your friend get the camera ready for the quick picture and release it a.s.a.p., don't try and take the photo yourself while the fish lays on the shore our of water while you fumble with the camera.


I am not one who fishes for sport. Primarily, I fish for food. Each time I go out, I have a specific species in mind. However, I will not keep fish that are too small to harvest, or are required by law to be released. Nor will I keep a species I do not care to eat. In these instances, I will, where possible, return the fish to the waters. I believe in conservation, and practice it in classroom environments as well as the outdoors. I never understood catch and release fishing or pure sport fishing as primary motives for fishing, but to each his own. If its legal to catch, large enough to keep and a species I eat, it goes on my stringer. When I have enough to feed my family of three, I'm on my way home. No need to limit out. That way, I get to go again soon. I like em fresh, not frozen.


When keeping fish to eat I generally attempt to land the fish in the same manner as if I would to release it. Ultimately then if I decide to let it go the fish stands a better chance of surviving. I use a Ketchum release and rarely touch the fish at all. I have noticed that same fish several times returns to its origianl holding spot in the water and is still there when I return. Since I have already caught that fish, I figure I have solved that part of the puzzle and work on another section.In this way when say my brother or friend comes along to this section it is a puzzle they get to sove and everyone gets a chance.


I think the point here is being missed. The question is not whether it is ok to eat what you catch, nor is the question whether catch and release provides rivers full of fish for others to catch. The question is if it is right to catch a fish you have no intention of eating, but to torture the creature for your enjoyment? I don't think it is and try to catch only what I want to eat.


I usually let the small ones go to grow up, but legal and worthwhile sized fish are kept and eaten. And when you have enough to make a meal quit and go home, no sense in harrassing fish just for the fun of catching them in my opinion. Also if they are gill hooked they are keepers no matter what size, as these usually die anyway when released, if it's bleeding from the gills it's already as good as dead, why throw it back?
Take only what you can use and use what you take.
That was the fisherman's motto before all this Politically Correct BS.
Should still be.

Dave Lunder

I am one who practices the art of catch and release and then I am for taking a good catch home also. For me it works like this...I catch and release for most of the day. Come it time that I think my day might be coming to a close, I start to keep good sized, nice looking fish. Upon doing so, my family and I will dine on the fish within two to three days of the catch. Preferably myself I like a shore lunch fish fry. Nothing is better than FRESH fish cooked up right. I just think that this subject is highly debatable with no one being really right or wrong. It is purely a matter of one's personal opinion.

Rene X. Davila

I used to fish a state park lake years ago. We used to catch 1-3 bass a day and were lucky to average a pound I kept in touch with the locals and after about 10 years finally retuned. My first Largemouth went a tad over 8lbs.!!! The next 5 averaged 4.8!!! So now, don't tell me or any of my fishing buddies "catch and release" doesn't work. Bentsen State Park in South Texas is living proof of good genetics and catch and release. Thankyou.

paul Wilke

catch and release is great. I like to be sure that I keep the fish
in the water as much as possible, I don't breath water the fish doesn't breath air and it's out of breath after the fight. But it's not mugging, I've caught the same fish, on the same bait, in the same location within the same hour. If that was a mugging the fish didn't didn't seem to mind.
Treat them carefully, enjoy the contest, but save their life.
Learn to cook, when you do keep one, it deserves to be invited to a great meal.

Dennis Smith

I'm surprised none of you guys mentioned the "Ketchum Release." It's a dandy little tool that allows you to release a fish without having to net or handle the fish at all.

It's sinfully easy to use, works like a champ and doesn't tear up flies like hemostats do. You simply catch your leader in the slotted end of the tool and slide it down the leader to push the hook out. Bingo. Works best with debarbed hooks, naturally.

Now having said that, I'm not above keeping a few brookies, bluegills or perch for the pan every now and then. I keep only what I can eat in a single sitting and eat them asap; frozen fish don't measure up to fresh caught.


I have a big problem with anyone who hunts and fishes for more than they need. Especially hunting. I see all these hunting shows where people kill scores of deer, snow geese, ducks, etc. etc. and they ''donate'' the meat to charity or the needy. This would seem to be a noble thing. However I don't quite think that these people are totally honest with the world or themselves. Killing something is an enormous responsibility. To do so, to only donate the meat to keep it from wasting seems to me to be just short of disgusting. Would these same people donate a penny more than what was beneficial come tax time? Would they go to the store and buy canned goods when there is a drive? I think not. They are making shows and killing animals for sport and for entertainment. There is a huge difference between killing for your family to eat and killing for fun. The latter will ultimatley be the undoing of this way of life. As far as fishing goes...I am in no way judgemental of the man who releases a fish he hopes survives, even if it doesn't. If he is sincere, sooner or later he will come across the best way to release the fish he catches and will then release more fish that will survive. Most times in life, what really matters is someones ''real intentions''.
Think about it!

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