This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm

December 10th, 2001

About Dead Fish

A line from Ed Zern's The Ethics, Perhaps, of Fly Fishing from last week made the hair on the back of my neck crawl. Here it is again:

"There have always been men who could accumulate a larger number of dead fish than other men, because it was important to them; but no one remembers who they were, or should."

Am I proud of a particular big fish? Yes. Did I kill it? Nope. Reason?

Ah, here's the catch - you can call it ethics, an argument for Catch and Release - or anything else you wish. But the fact is, big fish spawn big fish. If all the fish in a particular fishery are small, they will produce small fish. And if you kill the largest of those small fish, in time the size will continue to diminish. Some areas have a reverse size limit where the smaller fish are available to catch and keep, which allows anglers to take something if they must, and keeps the larger fish to reproduce. It does work.

Where there is a surplus of fish, or where fish are stocked specifically to catch and eat, keeping fish is fine. The idea is to maintain a renewable resource - read fishery.

The egocentric need to accumulate piles of dead fish is pathetic. As long as I'm venting my disgust, I'll add to that the IGFA records for endangered or threatened fish. Not one of those fish should be killed in the name of a 'record' by anyone. The practice is deplorable, killing a superb fish for a paltry line in some 'record' book. Insane.

Those record fish reproduce! They also reproduce BIG fish. How many fish will not be created because of the death of those fish?

Records are kept of fish not killed, and if a person feels his life is not complete without a line in a record book, at least pick on a specie or record not requiring the fish be killed.

There are also guides who feel they must 'own' records to prove their ability to potential clients. I sincerely wonder how many people pick a guide on how many records he has. Does that mean the guide can put me on fish? Maybe if all the conditions he had when he got his records are all matched. This seems to me to fall into the same category as guides who raised their fees when they became 'certified' instructors. No, I'm not going there again - but having an attitude of greater superiority does creep into some part of fly fishing, and it really makes me fume.

You can disagree with me of course, but there is no one person who knows everything about fly fishing. None. You can take the finest saltwater angler and drop him in a spring creek and see how effective he is. You can take the spring creek veteran and put him on a lake full of Kamloops trout - see how well that works. It is the same with fly tying. There are those who swear by exact imitation - and those who tie attractors. No matter how much knowledge in any specific area of fly fishing, none of us will ever know it all. I guess that's why I bristle at the word 'expert.'

Ah ha, does the person with the 'record' become an instant expert? Or think he is? Or expect others to treat him with special deference? Or maybe he just got lucky.

In my mind those who kill fish to accumulate a pile of bragging fish - or to kill fish to obtain a record are all covered by one word.

Butcher! ~ LadyFisher

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