Outdoor Writers Association of America
Northwest Outdoor Writers Association
This Week's View

by Dennis E. Smith

Guest Editorial

September 14th, 1998

Stomach Pumps, Anglers, and Ethics

Going through my email on our return from the big fly fishing dealer show in Salt Lake, I found the following piece by Dennis E. Smith. It is much more inportant than what I had planned. Thank you Dennis!

Stomach pumps, throat pumps - or whatever you choose to call them - are legitimate laboratory instruments used to sample the throat or stomach contents of a fish. Insofar as they are used by entomologists, biologists, and other members of the scientific community in the collection and study of aquatic insects, that use is proper and justified.

Recreational use of stomach pumps by anglers as an aid to catch more fish is questionable, at least, and probably unethical as viewed in the context of fair chase.

I suspect most seasoned anglers would agree.

Contrary to popular trends, no amount of fancy gear or scientific gadgetry designed to take the "work and guesswork" out of fly fishing will make you a good fly fisherman.

Only time on the water can do that.

I don't believe, as some do, that stomach pumping a fish is the moral equivalent of thumb screwing a POW for military intelligence, but I'd have to be a fool not to see the obvious parallel. I mean, there you are - torturing information from a trout you just captured for the singular purpose of using that information to capture the rest of his buddies. How cool is that? How ethical?

Okay, it's only a fish, and the national security's not at stake, but, if you ask me, your sense of fair play stinks.

Norman Maclean wrote that "All good things - trout as well as eternal salvation - come by grace, and grace comes by art, and art does not come easy." Sucking the stomach contents from a fish to enhance your angling score is not an act of grace. It sure as hell ain't art.

It's cheating, plain and simple, and ethical anglers don't cheat.

~ Dennis E. Smith, copywrite 9/08/98

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