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Catch And Release

April 28, 2017

Fly fishing…. it’s been the backbone of my family for many generations. But unlike many fishermen who were reared in the 1950’s, I was taught from an early age the concept of catch and release. Simply put, it is fishing for sport and not for the meat.

That is not to say there’s anything inherently wrong with the catch and kill approach to fishing. There is certainly room for that aspect of fishing as well with some limitations. I’m pretty sure the Native-Americans of the 1700’s and 1800’s weren’t fishing just for sport. However, as the decades have passed, we have learned that nothing is forever and that includes healthy fish populations as well. Fish hatcheries alone can not reclaim healthy fisheries. We all need to do a little of our own share as well. It is largely a question of balance. When I lived in Oregon for example, I caught over 1,300 trout every year and released them all. If I had killed all of those fish over the 16 years I lived there, the streams would be missing some 20,800 trout. That’s the equivalent of a small fish hatchery in of itself. I usually caught only 6 to 12 salmon every year and kept just one to eat.

There are right and wrong ways of handling fish for their release. Here’s a condensed guide:

Always use barbless hooks. If a net needs to be used, use a newer model that is recommended for catch and release. Keep the fish in the water as much as possible and handle it as little as possible. Too much handling causes the fish to loose scales and that in turn can kill the fish. To release a tired-out fish, gently hold its tail lightly with the fish facing upstream in quiet water and pump it a few times back and forth until it can swim away strongly on its own. Never “throw” or “dump” a fish back into the water; the shock could kill it.

Catch and Release is a mentality not a golden rule. It is an acquired behavior and as such needs to be learned from an early stage in one’s fishing life. If you are new to fishing in general or fly fishing in particular, I urge you to adopt this mentality and pass it on to your children and their children so that there will be fishing opportunities for generations to come.

The trout thank you, the salmon thank you and most assuredly I thank you!

The photo is of one of my friends heading back home many years ago on the North Mills River, North Carolina. (Before Catch and Release nets were on the market.) Photo by Rachel Rizzi.

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2 Comments
  1. I’ve been unwittingly practicing this discipline ever since I took up the sport . . . 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Andrew McCormick permalink

    From New Brunswick Salmon Federation: pleased with catch & release program.

    I am sharing this article from CBC with you
    http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/programs/shift/pleased-by-catch-and-release-1.4074608

    Like

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