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Catch and release
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James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
"Catch and release" on 09/10/2011 07:05:39 MDT Print View

C&R is fine. Catching to eat is fine. I cannot say how or why others do what they do. Or even guess as to their motives. That is up to them.

I fish a lot. For the past twenty years, trout only. I keep smaller fish in the 8-12" range. I release larger fish, unless they are damaged. I have caught fish with hooks in their throats, hooks in their gills, missing an eyeball, scars on their backs, and all sorts of deformed and damaged fish. In the waters of the ADK's, mostly, bacterial infections, et al is fairly mild. Most places you can drink the water if you are willing to risk gardia. Worms, cycsts, etc IS a real problem through out the area. If you keep a fish for eating, make sure he is well cooked.

I may catch 15-20 trout before heading back to camp. I do not gloat, nor do I proclaim trophy if I happen to catch a good sized fish. He goes back, usually. I have landed 30" rainbows (so called steelhead) on 3# test with a size 20 blue winged olive. It is not a big deal to catch a 15" brookie on 2# test line with a size 16 coachman. It is a big deal when one of these fish is full of eggs, though.

Mostly, I don't carry a rod out hiking. When I do, it is because I am looking to extend my food in the woods. 5# of trout will last two days of good eating. I make no bones about it, I hunt fish to kill and eat. If I don't catch anything, I eat plain rice or macaroni. I also enjoy fishing. It has a survivalist feel that makes me remember where I came from. Where we all came from. Nor am I needlessly cruel. If, I decide to keep a fish, I break his neck before I remove the hook. That quick. Releasing is MUCH more difficult, but it helps a lot to turn him upside down. You get about 10-15 seconds of disorientation to remove the hook and set him back in the water. My hands are always wet from picking him up with the net anyway (if he fits.) With flies, 95% of the catches are in the jaw or lip. A barbless hook means it will slip out easily. With midges (size 20,22 and 24), it is ALWAYS in the lip.

No, I never feel that I am chasing the fish to inflict fear and pain upon him. I am hunting the fish to kill him, he knows it. He may or may not survive. I figure that a 2# tippet and size 20 hook makes it about even. If I catch him, and I am hungry, he is prey. He knows that. He kills minnows to live. They are prey. He kills insects to live. They are prey. I may kill him to live out on a long hike. There is no question of catch and release. If I am not hungry, I would not fish. So, the question is rather incomprehensible. But, in a more civilized manner, I release larger fish, knowing that they will reproduce far more effectively than the 10" fish I just killed. This insures tomorrows "survival".

Do all the fish I release survivve? Well, I doubt it. But, I am sure that some do. A better proportion than none. So, I sort of agree with both sides. Some simply die from exhaustion. Some simply die for no apparent reason...too frighted to eat? Some survive. Enough, I think...

Hoot Filsinger
(filsinger) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: "Catch and release" on 09/12/2011 21:45:51 MDT Print View

The old fish on a stick photo

Catching, eating, or releasing a fish is a fairly simple task but managing a species/habitat for future generations now that is the true challenge.We are living with a generation of young and old alike with a serious disorder called "NDD" (Nature Deficit Disorder).

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Another C & R dilemma on 09/13/2011 16:29:50 MDT Print View

Many areas of Washington State are C & R only, and I have often wondered what a person is supposed to do if they inadvertently damage a fish. If they release it, they are condemning it to a slow death. If they keep it and get caught, they risk a hefty fine and confiscation of their gear. Not a choice I'd want to have to make.

Mike M
(mtwarden) - MLife

Locale: Montana
catch on 09/13/2011 19:25:00 MDT Print View

when I fish (typically high mountain lakes) it's to catch and eat; with that said I let go big fish (unhurt big fish) - one they don't fit on my grill, two it's usually more fish than we need and three smaller trout simply taste better

I don't have any problem w/ folks fishing C&R, I do have problems w/ folks that think it's sinful to keep some fish to eat

Russ Porter

Locale: Anchorage
Re: Another C & R dilemma on 09/13/2011 23:16:56 MDT Print View

I agree Tom it's a hard decision but I follow the law. Last year I had a hard time releasing a trout that was bleeding and I new it would die. The river I was on was catch and release only for trout. However, even if a fish dies it's body will do good for the eco-system. I personally have come to terms with this and will continue to catch and release for trout and grayling unless I want to keep a few when legal for dinner, but for salmon I only fish and keep what I need.

Mark Ries
(mtmnmark) - M

Locale: IOWAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!
Thanks for all the comments on 09/13/2011 23:49:56 MDT Print View

Thanks to everyone for keeping this a civil discussion and not bashing each other for our opinions which we are all entitled to. My personal opinion has been formed from what I read in fishing books and online and my opinion is always evolving and Im best off not believing that its the only one to have. First I dont believe fish feel pain like we do I put them somewhere between us and a worm but much closer to the worm from what Ive read they have a very simple brain and there are good readings to be found on this matter. I believe its ok to fish for food or sport but it really depends where the fish are coming from and size and population on whats ethical in my mind. If the lake, stream or river has a very healthy or over population the fish are usually smallish hungry and easy to catch and thinning the population will help others to get more food and grow larger Then they can feed on larger small fish and help the waters produce healthier fish another sign of over population is lots of skinny fish with big heads, they are not getting enough food to grow properly I would not hesitate to eat my fill out of these lakes, It did not bother me to see the picture of fifteen fish on the fire to feed three people they were all smallish fish and most likely from a heavily populated lake. Now what bothers me is seeing big fat beautiful trout which are preditors and help keep the balance by eating smaller fish removed. These fish need to be released if there is at all a chance of them surviving even if the survival rate is only 50% there will be more large fish if all are released. The fish that die also become part of the food chain. I believe that a fish that is played quickly and released properly can be released and survive. 100%? No but the more skilled the angler is at catch and release the better the odds. I have nothing against anyone who feels that fishing for sport is cruel and understand where some people could see what I do as wrong but I do feel that done properly it is healthy for the trout population. I really like the idea of catching wild trout or at least wild grown over stocked trout. I know there are alot of variables and this is really a subject that can get really deep but the other day when I saw pictures posted on another thread of alot of very nice large goldens being removed from high country lakes I got a very real and very sick feeling. Years ago I would have said nice fish good for him but I didnt feel that anymore. Two years ago I met an interesting individual named J_ _ in the wind river range, he was real white looking guy but he had found an native american religion, he was taught and studied it and taken it for his own. I kept running into him on the trail and we talked quite a bit. He talked about a lake that had big goldens, which are not native to the winds as a matter of fact most all the lakes were stocked at one time but most now are self sustaining populations. He had once caught a seven pounder out of that lake. He spent the better part of a day trekking into it caught one 3-1/2 pounder then turned around and left I said why didnt you stay and fish more he said that he just needed to know that they were still there. Interesting guy. I had told him about BPL cause he was carrying like 70 lbs In the exact same pack that was my 1st one 20 yrs ago. If he is reading this I hope he contacts me. Glad to hear all the comments hope to hear more I learned alot

Ike Jutkowitz
(Ike) - M

Locale: Central Michigan
Great discussion on 09/14/2011 11:14:40 MDT Print View

I've watched this thread with interest, but hesitated to comment because I am as conflicted as some of you. I believe strongly that participating in "sport" that involves animals is wrong, whether catch and release fishing or trophy hunting without intent to consume the kill. I respectfully disagree with the statement that "fish do not feel pain", and I believe this to be evident from their actions when we catch them.

For many years I was morally opposed to hunting or fishing for any reason. I was vegetarian for some of this time. Once I began to eat meat again, I still experienced doubt about the treatment of domesticated animals intended for food, but thought hunters were worse because they killed for fun. This changed when I moved to Michigan and actually got to know some hunters well. Nowadays, I consider hunting and fishing to represent a more ethical means to procure food. Some ideas that lead to this shift in thinking included (and I apologize for generalizations):

Concerns about the handling and slaughter of domesticated animals.

The recognition that many hunters do so to put food on the table.

Many hunters and fishermen also put their money where their mouth is when it comes to protection of natural resources. They have a vested interest in doing so.

Hunted animals lived a natural life and which hunters strive to end quickly. This seems preferable to the shipping and slaughter of domesticated animals, a process that seems to create a great deal of fear. Some hunted animals escape and die slowly. The hunters I have met experience strong feelings of guilt when this happens.

Some hunters drink lots of beer and then shoot cows, friends, etc. This represents only the actions of certain individuals and not the practice of hunting in general. There are a-holes in all walks of life.

The perception that natural fish and meat is in many cases healthier than farm raised, though this is obviously not true of fish harvested from certain areas.

A connection between hunter and hunted prevents taking for granted the taking of a life. It is much easier to look at plastic wrapped fish or meat as "groceries" rather than as a sentient being.

Nowadays, the majority of fish that I eat was caught by me (preferably in Alaska), following sustainable fishing practices. Somewhat hypocritically, I still end up releasing over 90% of what I catch. I believe in the slot approach as others have stated and release the non-targeted species, the smaller than legal fish (mostly what I catch) and the bigger breeders. Confusingly, I occasionally release fish I was intending to eat but couldn't bring myself to kill once I caught them. For meat, we eat one hunted deer (Not by me. Though I defend the practice, I have not yet been able to bring myself to do it), and a pig and a lamb raised by a coworker. We get free range eggs from another coworker. Something to be said for knowing exactly where your food comes from.

So there's my treatise on ethical fishing and hunting. I aborted a number of attempts to post this because I recognize my philosophy is contradictory. Much less gray zone in being a vegetarian.

Edited by Ike on 09/15/2011 00:29:11 MDT.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Excellent thread on 09/28/2011 20:51:01 MDT Print View

I started fishing for trout as a teenager in the southern Sierras. Soon I started backpacking to get to the less populated fishing areas. Soon I started backpacking without my fishing pole, as I enjoyed that more. I still fish for mountain trout every couple years or so. I C&E and never exceed the legal limit. I don't understand hunting or fishing just for the "sport" of it. Some of my best fishing days are the ones I don't get a bit. Time well spent for me.

Steve S
(idahosteve) - F

Locale: Idaho
long term actions on 09/29/2011 12:49:03 MDT Print View

I read thru this thread with a fair amount of interest as well. I've been fishing since I was very young, have fished all over, for many species. I was a fisheries major in college.
My main issue, as I pass the 50 yr old mark is the results of what a lifetime of fishing in remote areas has brought about. I've been fortunate to see over a 30 year span what the fisheries here in Idaho has become. Its true to say that "the good ole days" of the past are really gone. Lakes with wonderful populations of fish are only a memory along most trails in the Sawtooths. Remote lakes with trophy trout can be wiped out in a single season, SERIOUSLY. If I spend a weekend and catch a dozen trout between 15& 20 inches, how many days of this type of "culling" do you think the lake can sustain? Smaller lakes are even more sensitive. Natural reproduction is minimal to non-existent in these high lonely and difficult locations. Fish take a long time to grow to large sizes. I just recently read a trip report with specific info on trout, and their sizes along with the lake names. A few of these lakes were really trophy lakes, and very remote. This will bring more pressure to bear, and shorten the life of these lakes and their fish population. In my opinion this was a poor choice. We can extoll the features and experiences without compromising the areas we visit.
When I see hikers holding up big beautiful fish, gutted and ready to eat, I both feel sad and glad. I'm saddened because the years, possibly decades that it took for that fish to achieve such magnificence is over, glad that I'm sure the angler was overjoyed to experience such a moment.
But the bottom line now for me, is, with no money to stock and mangage these lakes, and that is what all these high lakes were done originally; very few locations/mountain ranges have replinishing populations, these experiences are exponentially being removed from our trips. I see it personally every season. I fly fish almost exclusivley now, spend almost all of my time off trail, release every fish, and take the precautions to make sure that I'm not the cause of any fish needlessly suffering. That doesn't mean that I won't eat a fish, or that if a fellow hiker wants to keep fish I won't throw hater talk their way. I will tell them why I believe what I believe, and if I lead a trip to special fishing areas, I will make sure that those who choose to come with me are aware of my "rules", otherwise, they can go find these spots on their own.
But I really bemoan the fact that within my lifetime, I will probably see wonderful fisheries totally dissapear and that means that my son and daughters will miss out on the experience of seeing big 20"+ trout rise out of the crystal clear water and slurp a hand tied fly beneath the beautiful high peaks.
Think long term, it will change the way we view life.

Mike W
(skopeo) - F

Locale: British Columbia
Catch and release on 12/03/2011 01:38:59 MST Print View


Edited by skopeo on 06/17/2015 16:43:25 MDT.

Brian Austin
(footeab) - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Catch and release on 12/06/2011 01:33:58 MST Print View

I catch and release worms into streams...

Does this count for C&R?

<< I have got to be the worst fisherman in the history of the world >>

Only way I ever caught a fish, was by throwing food into a fish pond and using a net...

Sorry couldn't help myself with the thread title.

Scott Truong

Locale: Vancouver, BC
RE: Catch and release on 12/20/2011 13:51:21 MST Print View

I'm new to fishing but have had lots of fun this year salmon/steelhead fishing. Believe me, I'd like to eat everything I catch but you have to release wild fish, and they're so beautiful you feel like a real douche mishandling them.

I've gotten a lot better at releasing fish, especially on steep rocks. May or may not apply with smaller fish, but come to think of it, you could be standing on a log.

- Always wet your hands before handling fish

- Grab by tail, unhook in water if possible. Do not lift by tail (bigger fish) alone as it does something to their vertebrae. Put other hand on belly and lift two handed if "necessary".

- If it's deep hooked, hooked in gills or just seems sketchy getting hook out, cut the line as close to hook as possible and leave it in the fish, but taking and eating it would be best.

- Fine line between overplaying and making them tired enough to handle so they don't thrash on rocks, but you do need to play them for a bit.

- Be careful of your rod tip when landing a bigger fish and bending down to handle, let out some slack.

- Go barbless. It's law where I fish, but I'd do it regardless.

- If you're going to kill it, do it quick and decisive. Hold it firmly, and using a rock or bat, smash it sharply on top of the head in between the eyes. BTW, this using only stuns the fish. I bleed the fish right away for better table fare . Or snap it's spine, but I don't really know how to do this.

- Know your regulations and don't be one of "those" guys.

.... but no doubt about it, though you try to be as gentle as possible and minimize the fish suffering... it is a blood sport. The fish are panicked, stressed and fighting for their lives. It is what it is.

PS: I pretty much agree with everything Ike J and Mike W state above. Actually, I aspire to be Ike J after seeing his Alaska trip report.

Edited by elf773 on 12/20/2011 14:15:13 MST.

Steve S
(idahosteve) - F

Locale: Idaho
Re: RE: Catch and release on 12/21/2011 21:12:33 MST Print View

wetting your hands is probably the most important aspect of handling any fish if you hope to release it unharmed back into the water. When handling a fish, you will be amazed with this technique; for trout, as the fish comes into the shore, slide your hand gently under the fish, cradling it in your hand (with most avg sized fish) and without squeezing, just lift it up and the trout will lay there unmoving. This is a legit technique, and it works extremely well. You do not have to squeeze or otherwise put any pressure on them, and they will not fight it. Then take a pair of hemostats, or grab the fly at the eye, and with a flick, they go back into the water. This is worth practicing, you also have a great opportunity to take pics when they are laying in your hand motionless.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Catch and Eat on 12/21/2011 23:54:48 MST Print View

I, the 5th generation to be born in SF, attempted to catch fish when I was 12. But my father had only book-learning Boy Scout skills and no hunter-gathering skills. I didn't know what to do and there was no one to teach me. In Seattle, age 35, co-workers took me under their wing and the first fish I ever caught was a sockeye salmon on a bare hook behind a flasher, from a canoe, landed without a net.

Now, living in Alaska I realize I could unfairly claim all sorts of moral superiority, but I don't. It's fun to fish. It's interesting, exciting and offers comradery with your companions. But here's what I do:

I catch 30-35 sockeye salmon each year. That take one or two half days. We keep them all, large or small (they're all coming back to breed so are between 6 and 10 pounds). We fresh-freeze 20 of them and smoke the rest. Also, hopefully, we get 6 halibut in the salt water. If so, we're set for the year (my wife is a vegaquarium - no mammals or birds, but any seafood). If I netted a pink salmon and I notice before I bonk it, I release it gently (they don't taste nearly as good).

Clamming, if I dig it, I keep it, even if I busted one (I try hard not to).

I've gotten better and better each year at processing and preserving the catch. Partly from my own observation and experience but mostly from more experienced people who've graciously shared their knowledge.

Having been spoiled like this, I'd be hesitent to catch and release anywhere else. I understand the need to preserve stocks and the fishing pressure that exists most places. If I were a voter in another state, I'd advocate for very short seasons or maybe one week seasons per person to reduce fishing pressure and increase fisherman success per day of effort. Maybe your license includes 10 day stamps and when you've used the 10 stamps, you're done for the year.

But, again, I've been spoiled. It's a catchy phrase up here, "Don't play with your food." that people (extreme conservationists and commercial fishermen) use to argue for reduced sport fishing effort, catch&release and people who fish all day, trying for the biggest fish they can get.

Other catchy phrases include,

"Friends don't let friends eat farmed fish." (fish farming is illegal in Alaska)

"Farmed fish dyed for your dinner."

"Homer, Alaska - a quaint drinking village with a fishing problem." and

"If it's tourist season, why can't we shoot them?"

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
From River to Table on 12/22/2011 00:05:35 MST Print View

Someone mentioned techniques for processing your catch and I've always bonked fish quickly and gotten them on ice right away. Then I learned about bleeding the fish and now I bonk them and then break a gill so they bleed out more blood and that definitely improves the quality (and storage life!) of the meat.

Just last month, I read about a boutique commercial fishing family that sells only to upper end restaurants and they insert an IV line into the fish on both sides of the heart to flush blood out with fresh or sea water, thereby improving quality and storage life even more. I'm considering upping my game again and rigging a 12-volt pump, tubing and IV needles in the boat to do that as soon as they are caught. I might do it manually in a few fish the first year and compare side-by-side the results. With a engineer and a doctor in the family, we should be able to learn to do that pretty quickly.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Catch and Eat on 12/22/2011 18:07:05 MST Print View

" "Don't play with your food." "

Love it. Reflects my sentiments exactly.

Ian Smith
(smiia482) - F

Locale: MD/WV
Where Is The Line on 12/22/2011 22:35:11 MST Print View

I fish with the intention to eat what I catch. Personally, I have come to the point where I cannot justify releasing my entire catch.

Just as important to me as the "why" we fish - e.g. for food or for sport - is the "how".

As the saying goes: where is the line? Personally, I have issues with those who are attempting to land a larger fish on the smallest gear possible... at some point you pass the realm of sport and venture into torture. Conversely, I am not about to advocate something like electrofishing or netting, thinking it unacceptably reduces the "fairness" of the fight.

Morality is a strange and uniquely human condition. Ultimately I am okay with the idea of landing a fish on appropriately sized gear with the intention to consume said fish, yet I have issue with the thought of "cheating" via something like electrofishing or netting despite the fact that it may ultimately be less painful to the fish and it's still dead at the end... while on the other hand, catching & releasing a fish on light gear and playing the fish to an extreme level for the sake of sport is unacceptable to me, although that fish will still go on living hopefully.

Where someone chooses to draw the line is personal choice, and so long as the consequences of that choice do not threaten the health and safety of the stock I do not ultimately care where someone draws it.

I would like to caution against glorifying the trophy mentality however. While this issue is more relevant in regards to hunting, the pursuit of the "alpha-male" specimens appears to have begun to reduce the genetic pool for several species. Releasing prime specimens is just as important as returning undersized fry, and may ultimately yield a genetically superior and desirable species in the end.

Edited by smiia482 on 12/22/2011 22:37:41 MST.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: Where Is The Line on 12/23/2011 00:24:30 MST Print View

>"yet I have issue with the thought of "cheating" via something like electrofishing or netting despite the fact that it may ultimately be less painful to the fish and it's still dead at the end"

Those 6 halibut my family catches each year? On a hook and line.

But the 30 sockeye? Caught in a 5-foot diameter net. Through the "personal-use fishery" for state residents in Alaska. Not nearly as challanging as laying a dry fly just so on the water, but it does fill the freezer. It is only allowed in certain areas, in a very limited time window and there is stricter enforcement than with sport fishing (no one has ever said "boo" to me while sport fishing anywhere in the state). If I caught those 30 fish in a more "sporting" way, I'd have more bycatch of flounder in the lower river and Dollies further up which, having inhaled a hook, wouldn't be as likely to survive. And I'd take more days off work which doesn't help my family or the national economy, we'd waste more fuel which doesn't help the planet, and we'd create more wakes on the river which would erode more river bank and reduce habitat.

I realize we're blessed with an abundant, well-managed resource and very few residents and not a lot of tourists competing for that resource. But what if 48-state laws moved away from difficult capture methods (hook and line, no bait, etc) and towards the quick and easy? It would move from a sport fishery (playing with your food) to a meat fishery (feeding people and otherwise leaving the wildlife alone). The white fishing guides with the well-heeled clients would suffer. But those retirees and Asian immigrants who only eat protien when they catch it at the local dock would benefit.

I don't see either side as being right or wrong. I'm only trying to put in front of you a different paradigm for managing the resoure - vastly fewer fisherman-days with much higher success per effort. Broadly, those whose time is worth is worth more would benefit.

Ian Smith
(smiia482) - F

Locale: MD/WV
Re: Re: Where Is The Line on 12/23/2011 09:19:11 MST Print View


I see your point regarding using a net, and my statement is hypocritical given I've used them in the past whitebait fishing in New Zealand now that I think about it. I suppose my thought process was limited to my experiences of catching fish while backpacking near lakes and streams, and thus to commonly encountered species such as trout and walleye. It certainly hadn't occurred to me that using a net might actually reduce bycatch in certain situation as well.

I suppose in the interest of "purity" and "fairness" I could try catching a fish with my bare hands... but I also want the chance of success at some point. Meanwhile, I don't bother asking the guy at the fish market how my Alaskan Salmon was caught... so I'm okay with netting on a commercial level which may result in huge levels of bycatch but not on a personnel scale in an attempt to preserve some perceived "sporting chance"?

Anyways, keep on doing your thing sir. And thanks for the education.

Diplomatic Mike

Locale: Under a bush in Scotland
Re Catch and release on 12/23/2011 09:30:31 MST Print View

I used to fish, and hunt. Salmon, trout and the odd deer. Many a fine day was spent using ferrets to catch rabbits too.

I don't know why, but one day i just felt bad about killing or hurting something for fun, and stopped. Killing to eat doesn't bother me though.