Outdoor Writers Association of America
This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm

October 4th, 1999

A Guy Thing?

I had an interesting conversation with a friend this past week. It started innocently enough, but soon became evident we were in major disagreement. My friend fishes for both freshwater and saltwater fish, but he is best known for what he does in saltwater.

The subject was how many fish is enough.

His theory is the figures the experts espouse on how many fish die after being released is wrong. The 'expert' consensus is that 10% of fish released die. I don't think I've seen or read where the percentage is different for salt or fresh water. (If you have data that shows a different figure, please let me know.)

My friend contends that with very careful handling of the fish, the figure is next to nothing. He says he has never seen one of his released fish on the bottom dead, or floating on the surface.

Living on the salt, and having some understanding of tides and water currents, I'm not sure I could find a fish I released - even if I really tried. Add to that a number of predatory creatures swimming around in the ocean and I'm not sure a mortally wounded fish would ever surface to be seen.

I do know a lot of folks don't handle fish well, we've had articles on FAOL on how to properly release fish, but in short, land a fish as quickly as possible so not to totally exhaust the fish, keep the fish in the water to remove the fly if at all possible, if you have to handle the fish do so with wet hands so not to remove the natural protective slime, and revive the fish by gently moving it back and forth (faced into the current) until it swims away on its own.

Landing the fish quickly also means using enough rod. The silliness on how big a fish one can land on the smallest, lightest rod possible is just that. Silly. It sure isn't giving any thought to the welfare of the fish. And if that's your game, grow up and get over it.

Let's move to freshwater. We now have something which is called "concession" fishing. Jim Murphy of Redington put that name on it after fishing the Green River recently. He said there had to be a hundred guide boats float past him the day he fished it. That much pressure on any river isn't natural or normal. The fish become very spooky, and hatchery, cookie cutter fish the replacement for wild fish. I understand it, but I don't have to like it. It's about money and tourism dollars.

Too Many?

So if it's Catch and Release, is it a numbers game? If you catch and release 50 fish in a day, have you killed 10% of them? And how many is too much?

My friend says it's impossible to catch say 10 fish and tell a client, gee, we've got 10 fish, let's do a little ecological study on our surroundings. Although you know, there are places in our world where this is a very big draw. Maybe we need a little better attitude instilled in those guiding our anglers.

For instance, the Professional Fishing Guides Association of Andros Island just went through a class on bird identification. Because the Tourism Ministry of the Bahamas thought it would be a nice addition to be able to teach visitors to their island something about the local fauna. Cool - nice job folks!

I know there is a ton of education to be done if we are to have any resources for us to enjoy - much less to pass on to the next generation. But geeze, can't we try to voluntarily cut down on the 100 fish days? I know a lot of folks who would be thrilled to catch 10!

If they don't, those who insist on 100 fish days, may find themselves in the position of being forced to carry a Catch and Release Punch Card. And when you've released the prescribed number of fish you have to quit. Don't laugh that may be closer than you imagine.

"You don't understand, it's a guy thing," my friend said.

I've fished most of my life with guys. None of them have been that stupid. ~ LadyFisher

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