This was a trophy fish (possibly 15 years old) and my sense was that this angler really hadn't pondered what he would or should do if he landed something this big. It seemed like all that was on his ecstatic mind was the photo. But what then?
The experience reminded me that we recreational anglers really need to know what we will do with the fish we catch before we catch them, especially if the fish are going to be released. The fact is that there is very little time to figure it out once a tired fish is landed. How many of us really know what is correct when it comes to handling fish? You don't get instructions when you buy your license so how does an angler learn? What have you learned? Note that in this case, no license was required. If you want a photo are you prepared for efficient snap and release? Do you have a plan?
Photos by Mary Kern
Yes I have a plan never bring the fish out of the water. Never lay the fish on the sand or rocks! Its a bass lip it and release it. I have been to some super great ROCK hopping places around your neck of the woods and never had a problem releasing a fish easily! hmm to bad it had to die!
Consider running around the block several times and then having someone involuntarily holding a plastic bag over your head for some undisclosed amount of time. I realize that this is a very extreme analogy, but I hope it helps put what a fish experiences when it is angled and then held out of the water. Don't get me wrong, I am all for fishing (it is what drives me) but fish are simply not designed to live out of water. If you need to take a picture of a trophy fish, consider buying an inexpensive digital underwater camera so that the fish can remain in the water. Alternatively, be prepared - have the camera and person with the camera all ready to go- and then quickly lift the fish out of the water for the shot.
The bottom line is that it is really all up to the angler as to whether the fish has the best chance of surviving following time at the end of a line.
This is probably the rule and not the exception, sadly. This size of fish is not something that is easily replaced in the gene pool and constitutes a real loss in terms of spawning potential. It’s more than just that – if this were a 300 year old California Redwood that was being cut for lumber, the outcry would be enormous! Since it’s only a fish, it is only a small percentage of conservation-minded anglers and scientists that really understand (or really care about) the impact.
This is why we need to promote learning through stakeholder involvement, including catch-and-release best practices as well as understanding the impact of removing this size of fish from the population. It’s great that Patagonia promotes this awareness through Moldy Chum and Way Upstream, among other venues.
Thanks for sharing this with us, as sad as it may be…
All it takes is a slight change in angler behavior once the fish is landed. One person can make a difference when it comes to the conservation of recreational fisheries since the fate of the fish at the end of the line is really in their hands. If enough anglers get on the conservation-minded bandwagon, then anglers themselves can play a major role in sustainability of the fishery. A new program called Responsible Angling administered through the Fisheries Conservation Foundation will be putting a great deal of effort into getting conservation message out to anglers. Responsible Angling will be a place where anglers, guides, and even state authorities can learn more about the latest best practices that really help put the fate of the fish first.
Comments appreciated. Keep trying to help influence behavior and please share informative links and scientific updates. We are all stakeholders.
Here's a link to a video that offers advice and information regarding striped bass catch and release - http://thisisflydaily.com/2009/11/09/striped-bass-blitz-catch-release/
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