October 13th, 2003

Catch and Kill
By James Castwell

I have been knocking around the edges of trout management for nearly half a century now and still do not claim to know nor understand much about it. I have fished with and associated with many guys from the first ranks of the departments, got to know them and admire the work and dedication they have. Management is just that; management. But I wish it was that simple.

Let's take an example for a moment, 'multi-use.' The idea that if it is outdoors stuff it belongs to all of us. That means that we can play horse-shoes on the tennis courts, just be careful of each other. Right, some things can not be done that way, but there are times when 'multi-use' can be used. What would be the management tool to use here? How does one balance the needs and desires of department with those of the legislators? How indeed. How do you pass a law that is right, works, and will still let you get re-elected? Do you write a law for the fishery or the people using the fishery? Protect the environment from all destruction/use, or can it stand some sustained/constant use and regeneration/harvest? Info and data comes up through the ranks and is analyzed and acted upon by those entrusted with the job. Good luck, stuff like that is way above my pay-grade.

About fifty years back a company wanted to put a plant on a tiny river in the mid-west. The state needed it, it would make jobs, and was clean, so to speak. The only thing it would do was dump some hot (about 176 degrees) water back into the stream. This did not seem like the right thing to do. We did step into this one and got the water re-entered back into the water at a reasonable temperature. The tool we used? The court. Tools come in all types.

This one is for you to think about. Let's call it 'Catch and Kill.' (C&K) Yes, the idea here would be to, of course on highly selected targets, write the law something like this. You may catch two fish of any length (or in a slot size or weight) and you must kill and keep them. Why such a law?

Perhaps the targeted fishery is in trouble and should not be fished at all. Ok, don't fish it, period. Let's say it is better than that, but not much. It can stand a few fish being harvested, but not many. C&R you say? Perhaps, but is it not true that maybe even ten percent of the fish released by C&R die any how? Would that mean if you caught twenty, you actually killed two? And wasted them? And how about the eighteen? Did you stress them to a fatal or near fatal point? No answers here from me, just questions as usual.

Is it possible that at certain times a C&K policy may be a better management tool? I ask this because of a rather odd circumstance that has developed. A aura of "better than thow" has settled over the C&R idea. There some who feel they have taken, "The moral high ground" by being part of the C&R crowd. The aloofness gets a bit rank at times. I am not saying that there are not times when C&R is the correct tool, but until someone deflates the "moral high ground" idea we are not going to make much use of the C&K tool.

There are times when here in our country C&K is in use though. The idiots who snuck the Lake Trout into Yellowstone Lake years ago should be hung if ever caught. You now are required to C&K all you can. A few other examples exist as well, but that is not my point. We need to start thinking about management tools in the correct light, not as badges of superiority.

Perhaps we need to take a hard look at all sides when we scream about some poisoning of a lake, some bag limiting new rule or other such thing infringing upon our rights. Not to say we knuckle-under, just try to stay totally informed and open minded ~ James Castwell

Till next week, remember . . .

Keepest Thynne Baakast Upeth

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