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Catch and Release

By: Mark Romanack

Owning a fishing license does’t give you the right to keep fish, it gives you the right to fish. Keeping fish is a privilege we earn by not abusing the resource.

​I enjoy eating fish. There is just something special about having a fish meal with friends and family. Not only do I believe that fish is good for for the body, I believe the process of fishing is good for the soul. The fellowship we enjoy while fishing and again while consuming those fish, is the fabric that makes life worth living.

​ It may seem ironic that a man who loves to eat fish as much as I do, would also be a huge proponent of catch and release fisheries management. Those of you who have watched Fishing 411 TV will undoubtedly realize that we release more fish than we keep. Depending on the situation, we may release all the fish we catch, keep all the fish we catch or only keep one or two select fish.

​ Practicing catch and release or what In-Fisherman Magazine accurately calls “selective harvest” is something every angler must wrestle with. Keeping everything you catch is an option and it may even be a legal option, but this course of action is not a good option for the future of sport fishing in North America.

​ All of us who purchase a fishing license are granted certain rights. This license also implies that keeping whatever the daily license might be is also a right. I would argue that keeping fish is not a right, but rather a privilege we enjoy thanks to fisheries that are self sustaining or stocked regularly.

Catch and release is easier with some species than others. With care, even delicate fish like this brown trout can be successfully live released.

​ The daily creel limit imposed by a fishing license also implies that harvesting that many fish will do no long term harm to the fishery. Here is where I start to worry.

​ Fisheries and wildlife management are not what you can call exact sciences. In fact, for every success you see in fisheries management, there are usually several notable failures to contend with. This isn’t a knock on the biologists themselves, but rather an observation based on a long career of watching fisheries come and go over time.

​ So practicing catch and release or select harvest becomes a conservative means of catching and also keeping some fish, without the risk of over-harvesting any particular species. We would love to have our cake and eat it too, but the truth is if we harvest too many fish from any particular body of water, it can take decades for that fishery to recover.

The author credits bass anglers as being the first large and organized group of fishermen to embrace the benefits of catch and release. 

​ So if you’re that guy who wants to keep everything you can keep legally, I get that. My goal here is not to single anyone out for their desire to keep and enjoy eating fish. On the other hand,  if catching fish is more important to you than keeping/eating them, I’d say you are a serious candidate for catch and release or selective harvest. There is a place in sport fishing for both options.


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