During those occasions each season when weather
conditions preclude spending time in piscatorial
pursuits, I spend a great many hours at my fly
tying vise, filling orders that have fallen prey
to previous days then the weather was fit "only"
for fishing. In order to make these production
hours less like work, even pleasurable, I watch
hunting and fishing shows on televison as I fill
While I do further my angling education, to some
extent, some of the time, I am often disappointed
with the shows on the outdoors channels. I won't
say I'm necessarily turned off by southern accents,
certainly not feminine southern accents, but the macho
male TV conversation does wear a bit thin. I don't
know that a prerequisite to hosting a TV fishing show,
is being reared south of the Mason-Dixon line, but from
the number of "ya-alls" you hear on TV fishing shows,
I suspect it might be.
Another aspect of the training necessary to host fishing
shows, seems to be learning how many times per minute the
on-camera experts can repeat stimulating phrases like:
"Golllly Bubba! This danged fish is a reaaaaal haaawwgg!"
Or repeating over and over and over, how big a fish (seems
And as much as some of these experts seem to know about
fish, they often have a difficult time estimating fish
weights. I've been in front of a television camera enough
times to know it does add pounds to any subject (especially
me); but adding an obvious 20- to 30-percent to every
on-camera fish becomes ridiculous after a while.
Other Pet Peeves ABout TV Fishing Shows
When filming a bass tournament, the contestants
regularly skip bass along the surface of a lake;
bounce them off the side or the bottom of the boat;
weigh them on electronic scales; tag them with color
coded mouth tags; drop them into live-wells and let
them swim around in a tiny compartment with several
other fish; spend several precious minutes weighing
them (in plastic bags) in front of a cheering audience;
eventually releasing them back into the lake.
Do they all survive? Many experts believe a high
percentage do not. In fact there is a growing sentiment
among tournament bass fishermen towards pure
catch-and-release tournaments, where fish are measured
(length and girth) by on-board tournament officials,
then immediately released. I for one, applaud the idea.
I don't think there's any question but that there will
be a better survival rate in pure catch-and-release
Television shows that do not involve tournament fishing,
also frequently reveal poor catch-and-release techniques.
I watched a show recently, that featured a big name west
coast fly fisherman, where three to five pound rainbow
trout were over-played on light tackle, kept in the air
far too long during photo sessions, and released in what
appeared to be an overly stressed condition. All in the
name of TV entertainment.
Is Ultra-light Tackle More Sporting?
There also seems to be a fixation among many TV fishing
show hosts, that they have to plug ultra-light fishing
tackle as "more sporting." Nothing could be further f
rom the truth. Legendary Ted Trueblood once chastised
me rather severely (in a 2-page letter) for authoring
a column where I described hooking and landing a Weiser
River (Idaho) steelhead on 2-pound monofilament. It had
taken me an hour to land the fish.
"The real sportsman," Ted told me, "uses tackle heavy
enough to quickly bring his fish to the net, especially
if he intends to release them alive."
Trueblood's formula was quite simple. He believed we
should always use the heaviest monofilament we can get
away with. Over-playing a fish builds up lactic acid in
it's system, and although the fish might seem in good
condition when we release it, might also swim off and
die hours or days later. "Top anglers," Ted told me,
"become adept at quickly netting large fish, and
releasing them without touching them. Too much air
time is bad for any fish species."
Ted was ahead of his time. Queen's University in
Ontario, Canada recently completed a study on the
mortality of rainbow trout which were exposed to
air after exhaustive exercise. The study shows
"in both commercial and recreational fisheries,
exhaustive exercise is often followed by a brief
period of air exposure prior to release. During
this time, the gills' delicate lamellae will collapse
and gas may be largely inhibited."
The study showed that even though fish exposed to air
for 60 seconds, initially appeared to be returning to
normal, they often died, usually between four and 12
hours later. This 'delayed mortality' has been observed
by other investigators and, in the wild, could give the
false impression that released fish always survive."
Only 28 percent of those fish which were exposed to air
for 60 seconds after exercise survived for the next 12
hours as compared to 88 percent of those fish which were
only exercised and not exposed to air.
When fish were exposed to the air for 30 seconds, survival
rate was 63 percent.
Even the time-honored technique of grasping a black bass
by the lower jaw, to paralyze it so it won't wiggle too
much, is now being questioned. I read a report recently
that suggested the technique can severely damage larger
fish, particularly when show-offs lift them to shoulder
heights for the camera. In my opinion catch-and-release
fishermen should all carry release/type nets, with cotton
bags- not nylon, and learn to use them. Hooks should be
removed from fish with hemostats or long nosed pliers and
fish should be handled as little as possible.
Having been involved in TV production a few times, I'm
aware that things are done in front of a camera that
would never be done in "real life." But if the purpose
of these shows is to educate as well as entertain the
viewing public, much of the time they are doing a pretty
poor job. ~ Marv
Marv Taylor's books, Float-Tubing The West,
The Successful Angler's Journal,
More Fragments of the Puzzle, (Volume I) and More
Fragments of the Puzzle, (Volume II) are all available from
Marv. You can reach Marv by email at
firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone: 208-322-5760.