© By Othmar Vohringer
I have been following a discussion on one of the popular web based fishing forums about retaining fish or releasing them again. What I thought at first was to be a meaningful discussion quickly turned into a heated shouting match.
It all started innocently enough with a novice fisher asking the forum members how many fish he could keep and take home. He obviously didn’t look it up in the fishing regulations were he could have found the retaining quota of each fish species. The first reply to that question should have been, “Look it up in the fishing regulations.” Instead, the first reply was a lengthy rant about the ethics of fishing, that true sport fishers release all fish, that only slob fishers who do not care about the fisheries, environment, and fish conservation would take fish home. “We have a moral obligation in this age and times to release every single fish we catch. Before you come here and ask unethical questions may I suggest that you get an education about ethical fishing.” I found this to be rather strong language directed toward a novice asking a simple question.
From there on it went downhill with the discussion: sport fishers throwing punches back and forth at each other. Rather than getting involved in a discussion that, given the heated emotions, was destined to lead nowhere I decided to make it a topic here at the BC Fishing Blog.
Looking through the forum threads to view all the opinions for and against retaining fish I realized, with some feeling of shock, that the most outspoken (not to mention verbally insulting) opposition to keeping fish came from fly fishers. I have nothing against fly fishers. In fact I admire the skill and patience they put forward to become proficient with their choice of tackle. What I wonder though is what makes some fly fishers think that they are more ethical fishers than others? What makes them think that they have the right to use language that borders uncomfortably close to verbal assault against anyone that decides to retain fish they’ve caught?
I won’t repeat all the cussing, slander, and defamations that have been uttered on that forum. However, what I am going to say is this: In a time were sport fishing is attacked by animal rights and through lobbing of laws, such as currently proposed in Ottawa, that would make fishing a criminal act of cruelty to animals would it not be wiser to be a little bit more open-minded and respectful of other anglers that do not share the same opinion on the topic? As it stands what happens is that we deliver the ammunition the animal rights groups are looking for to further their agenda.
If the keeping of fish is unethical, as the majority of the catch and release advocates suggested we must then also assume that the fishery agency is unethical to. After all, it is that very agency that establishes catch and retain quotas of the various fish species and localities within the province using data obtained from biologists. Retention quotas are established to make sure the fishery does not get over fished nor a given species becomes endangered. It’s called establishing a sustainable balance of fish species that a given habitat can carry.
While I respect catch and release fishing, I will be darned if I let every fish go on its merry way. I have no hesitation in keeping as many fish as my family and I are inclined to eat. Having said that I have never yet limited out on any given quota. I also release more fish than I keep. Releasing a fish is not a question of ethics for me. Ethics has nothing to do with catch and release and releasing every single fish does not make a fisher more ethical than the one who keeps what he can eat.
Some fishers, and I know a few of them, like to fish for the sport of it but if asked they will tell you that they do not like to eat fish. On the other hand there are folks that fish because they like to eat fish. Still others fish in the hope to win the jackpot on a fishing tournament. And then there are the ones that simply fish to have fun and relax.
Whatever the reason for fishing is, the fishing community can accommodate them all. Fishing is, as many other things in life, an individual’s choice and we should respect that. Looking down our noses at the ones that do not share our opinion does absolutely nothing positive for fishing. I will tell you what it does though. Newcomers to the sport, especially the young, will be put right off even considering fishing as a recreational activity. Honestly, who wants to be around some stuffy guys that think they have written the book on morals and ethics. Squabbling about an issue that really isn’t one also creates division in the fishing community and that, my friends, is exactly what the anti fishers are hoping for. Divide and conquer is a tactic that has been used by legendary generals as far back as Julius Cesar and it still works today.
If you want to keep fish and take them home you’re certainly entitled to do so. You earned that fish by paying for your licence and spending time and money to buy tackle and learn how to fish. To find out how many fish you can keep on a given body of water and area consult the BC Fishing Regulations.
If you only fish for the fun of it and to pit your skills against the fish, then have fun and enjoy what makes you happy.
Tight lines…and don’t forget to have fun!
BC Fishing, Catch and Release Fishing, Fishing Ethics, BC Fishing Regulations