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10 rules for C&R
Catch, kill, release or not fish at all? A personal view on C&R.
The debate over catch and release (C&R) can get so heated sometimes that you forget what fishing is all about: having a good time by the water, enjoying nature – and catching a fish now and then.
What you do with that fish you occasionally catch depends on a number of factors. It's not just black or white: fish should always be released and never killed or the opposite: catching fish and releasing them is cruel and all fish caught should be killed.
I favor none of these extreme viewpoints, but choose to look at with little more consideration of the situation. The world is not as simple as some fundamentalists seem to want us to believe.
Sometimes I'm an avid C&R man.
I could generally never get myself to kill a Danish brown trout from a local stream. These streams are often submitted to a lot of fishing pressure and the fish grow slowly in a limited environment. Killing a brownie from a Danish stream would most likely remove a fish that will not be replaced right away. Growth rates are slow and big fish are old fish and few and far apart.
On the other hand I'd happily kill a sea run brown in Danish waters. They are plenty, grow fast, have all the space they need and a new fish will replace one taken in a short time. The impact we as anglers can make on the population is probably very limited.
for catching, killing or releasing fish.
Prefer single hooks and one hook only. Trebles are potential trouble if you ask me. Multiple hooks are for snaggers.
Fish barbless if you're fishing C&R. Pinch the barb on barbed hooks. Barbless hooks hook well and holds fine, but unhooks indefinitely much easier.
Gear up for what you are catching. Match rod weight, reel size, tippet strength and hook to the size and strength of your quarry. Fishing too light prolongs fighting times and leaves broken off fish with hooks in them.
Fight and land fish as quickly as you can, within a few minutes if possible. A fresh fish manages much better after release.
Unhook C&R fish in the water if possible. Simply grab the hook and slip it out.
Make optional photo, weigh and measure sessions as short as possible and handle fish as little and as careful as possible keeping them on wet weed, damp grass, in the net bag or on a similar surface.
Kill fish you want to keep as soon as you have them in hand. Unhook and take pictures later.
Avoid beaching fish you don't want to keep and keep fish off gravel and dirt. Use a knotless landing net if you are not comfortable using your hands.
Make sure released fish swim readily and vigorously before letting them go. Hold tired fish upright in the water facing any current until they flap their tail and swim – even in uncomfortably cold water.
Use common sense, empathy and consideration when fishing, catching, killing or releasing – but ALWAYS follow local laws and rules.
But – and there is a but – I will very rarely take a colored fish in the same water. A colored fish is on the way to spawn. That fish should be left to continue its journey and be able secure future generations – for the fish's sake and for mine. And of course I let all protected fish go: small ones and fish on their way to and from spawning in the spawning season.
I have very little respect for people who kill spawning fish – in the ocean or in the stream – in the closed season or when it's fully legal, which it sometimes is. Unfortunately it's quite common to harvest spawning salmon and sea trout in the streams even though it's obvious that the only reason the fish come there is to breed.
I know I'm fighting an ancient tradition, especially here in Scandinavia, and sure I could be enticed to take a good condition and bright salmon or sea trout for the pot if I caught one in a productive stream or river. But many rivers around the world are suffering from poor salmonid migration, and some streams maybe only see a hundred breeding fish in a season, so taking just a few could potentially have a significant effect on the population.
So I have a kind of pragmatic approach to C&R.
Sometimes I kill, oftentimes I don't.
Sometimes the thought of killing fish makes me cringe, oftentimes it's a natural part of the game.
Sometimes taking fish will have a significant influence on the population, oftentimes it won't.
My advice is to use common sense when you fish. Feel free to kill fish whenever there's an abundance of them and you want to eat them. On the other hand when there's a limited number of fish, when they grow slowly or when there's a strong local culture against killing fish.
In some places C&R is looked upon as unnatural and cruel. I've seen some heated debates in the media and on the web over the years, and I particularly remember a picture of a Norwegian river boat filled with dead salmon caught on good day and all killed, which stirred quite a commotion back when in the early age of the net.
In some regions or countries you are simply not allowed to release fish, which are within the legal limits. Some areas in Germany have this rule and in Switzerland a law has been passed, which completely disallows C&R. The law is a general animal protection law, but seems to mention fishing more or less directly.
I think it's a total misunderstanding to have such rules, and shows that the general perception of animal protection and conservation is completely askew. We as anglers ought to behave in such a way that such laws weren't necessary at all. Don't kill everything, handle fish with care (they ARE live animals) and release where it makes sense.
The PETA attitude
While we as anglers may see catch and release as the politically correct way of doing things, some people consider C&R is so much a no-no that they “chain themselves to trees” to fight it.
I just spent some time on PETA's homepage reading about their opinion on angling, and honestly... if it wasn't so seriously meant and they were so scaringly influential, I'd be laughing.
But I'm not.
People like PETA have no clue to what they are talking about if you ask me. They quote whoever says what they want to hear as well as make up their own weird theories about things.
They have a whole anti-fishing site where fish are constantly referred to as “Sea kittens”. What?! Little charming furballs with big charming, brown eyes and winning personalities? Come on now!
“Fish often swallow hooks, and anglers try to retrieve the hook by shoving their fingers or pliers down the fish's throat, ripping out not just the hook but some of the fish's throat and guts as well. When fish are handled, the protective coating on their bodies is disturbed. These and other injuries make fish easy targets for predators once they are returned to the water.”
“...shove their fingers down the fish's throat”?
"...ripping out not just the hook but some of the fish's throat and guts"?
“...protective coating on their bodies is disturbed”?
Which planet were these people born on? Ripping out the guts?
Sure some fish get hurt when they are hooked.
Sure some will suffer, even die, after having been released.
But probably not because some angler had a hand down its throat and ripped out its guts!
Anglers generally treat fish as well as they can, try not to hurt them and handle them very carefully. If the fish is hurt it's killed if that is legal.
No one deliberately wants to hurt fish.
PETA ends its rally against angling with the words:
“Please encourage anglers to ditch their poles and try other activities, such as hiking, camping, and canoeing, instead.” Yeah, right and ask people who like to play cards to play football and people who like ballet to watch action movies in stead!
You do not ask as a person to ditch a life long passion, which he or she has found absolutely fine, because you have some idea about how fish feel and think.
I for one am not ditching my “poles” and I'm not going vegan either!