Al Campbell, Field Editor

August 19th, 2002

Responsible Sportsmanship
By Al Campbell

Last week my wife and I celebrated another wedding anniversary. We try to do that at least once each year. In fact, if we ever fail to celebrate that date, I'll be in hot water because it will be me who forgot the important note on my calendar. Some things you don't dare forget and some responsibilities you don't avoid.

My financial advisor (wife) told me I could get a new ladder this year for our anniversary so I could fix the gutters and stop them from leaking. I was hoping for a new fly rod and the time to fish it, but even if I had a new rod, I wouldn't be fishing it this summer. It just wouldn't be the responsible thing to do.

This summer I avoided fishing locally. Many of our streams dried up and many others were so warm, the trout died. Trout in the few remaining streams were stressed much of the summer and fishing them just didn't fit into my idea of responsible sportsmanship. So, I spent most of the summer working on the basement and praying for rain.

That brings me to my point this week. It's called responsible sportsmanship; the conscious act of doing the right thing even if the law doesn't require it. Some people might call it ethics and others might call it morality, but those words don't fit the subject. Responsible sportsmanship fits the subject best.

Too many people think staying within the laws governing a sport is the only responsibility they have toward that sport. As long as they don't break any laws, they feel they are displaying the right amount of sportsmanship and responsibility. If the legal limit is six fish, then there is nothing wrong with keeping six fish every time you wet a line; right? If the law doesn't stop you from fishing when the water is warm enough to kill trout, then fishery managers must want you to fish it; right?

Let's face it; yanking a trout off a spawning redd is legal in many areas, but it isn't very sporting and sure isn't very responsible. Neither is catching and releasing a trout in water so warm that the demise of the fish is guaranteed by the acidosis it will have after the fight. Fish are a renewable resource only if they are allowed to renew their numbers or at least maintain the numbers they need to renew the resource at a later date.

That's why I made the decision to not fish this summer until the water temperatures had declined well below 70 degrees. I had plenty to do anyway, but the idea of not fishing was a decision I made based on the sportsmanship and responsibility considerations brought about by the warm water. I'm a little stir crazy from the lack of fishing, but I know some of the water will soon be ready to fish again and I won't run the risk of destroying a resource that is very valuable to me.

This game we call fishing requires a partner (fish) if we intend to play it. Carelessly risking the life and health of that partner to satisfy my own desires for sport is neither responsible nor sporting. This game requires a healthy relationship between the players if we intend to keep playing. It's a little bit like that anniversary I shared with my marital partner last week. If I intend to keep playing that game, I better remember to play by the rules, even if they aren't written somewhere. Anything else would cost me more than I'm willing to spend.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that sometimes you have to measure the fisherman by how much he is willing to sacrifice for the health of the fishery. If that means not fishing, then that is the responsible and sporting answer. It's kinda like that marriage thing I referred to earlier. My wife doesn't judge my commitment by how many times I tell her; but rather by how willing I am to show her. ~ AC

Previous Al Campell Columns

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