Inevitable hook mortality [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: Inevitable hook mortality

05-06-2003, 07:56 AM

Just curious, I'm wondering how many of you have actually had thoughts of giving up the sport over accidentally killing fish. I remember last season, I caught many small stripers and I goofed one of them up. It was only ONE but I felt terrible and went home (leaving many hungry fish still actively feeding). I actually had thoughts of simply collecting fly rods and casting them on land, not fishing them. I know this must sound absurd, but the older I get, the more sensitive I'm becoming to life in general. I know that a small percentage of released fish probably won't make it, but I'm curious how this affects other folks who love to flyfish.

BTW - I'm not giving up this passion any time soon, and I'll be out there with barbless circle hooks the week of May 19-23 if anyone wants to join me in Newburyport.

05-06-2003, 12:16 PM
Just to clarify my mixed feelings somewhat. . .

Knowing that harm may be inflicted upon the quarry, something that is now most unpleasant and undesirable, something that brings much grief to the fly fisher, why does the ritual of preparing artificial baits on hooks and presenting them to the quarry continue?

Just as a cat must play with the ball of yarn, humans must fish. It is part of our evolutionary history and there is little we can do about it. Just as we sit at our vises, tying artificial creations of deception, our ancestors have sat at their hearths, preparing their stone points of obsidian and chert, fantasizing about the hunt.

We have evolved within the parent body of the natural world, and although it causes much grief when the quarry is injured or killed, there is little we can do to resist the passion. Until grief overcomes desire, we would be denying our own humanity to resist.

05-06-2003, 12:49 PM
I would never give it up... If we feared harming them ,then one should quit. C & R is not old...and I for one would not consider quiting at all even though I practice C & R... and I use Barbless hooks for schoolies in the spring...but I will generally will not crimp my barbs for large fish... why? ...because I can not see any additional damage done by the hook in removal...if removed with caution. ( I will also take the chance of hooking myself..which has happened) Finally... I know "a lot "of people on this board who have taken home a striper or a Blue Fish on occasion yet are very much concerned with overall fish's part of fishing.

05-06-2003, 01:19 PM
Broche your point is well taken. A couple of years ago I lost a huge bonefish to a lemon shark down the the Bahamas and I was pretty upset for a while but it didn't stop me from enjoying fishing and practicing catch and release.

The important thing is we care and do our best to avoid injury as much as possible.

Dble Haul
05-06-2003, 01:20 PM
Flyfishing is a blood sport, even if done entirely as C&R. To think otherwise just isn't realistic.

But to stop fishing because of inevitable mortality rates, even when low? I haven't struggled with this, and I hope that anyone who does comes to find peace with his or her decision. Just bear in mind that our stewardship of the fisheries is very high, and the loss of a few gamefish along the way while enjoying our sport doesn't detract from that.

05-06-2003, 01:28 PM
I don't think twice about it. I debarb for spring twinkies and trout fishing but not big fish. I think you're more likely to kill a fish by overplaying it or lifting by it's gill plate (can't STAND that) than you are by using a barbless hook or circle hook. I don't think I had a single fish, fresh or saltwater, swallow a hook on me last year. Didn't kill or keep one either, and there were hundreds.

I don't particularly care for poachers, meat-packers and the like, but that's not how I play the game. I guess it all depends on how you look at it. You could make a good argument that without the conservation efforts of true sportsmen, these resouces would not even exist today for our discussion...


05-06-2003, 01:45 PM
As I came to realize in earlier posts, if not for the sportsmen, then who will care for the fish?

Animal rights? Certainly not, their narrow focus only concentrates on the 'sting in the lip' while entire species vanish to non-confrontational, indirect genocidal forces like habitat loss, 'humane' netting, pollution, etc. It's a fact that even commercial over-fishing has not made a species go extinct whereas all fish extinction has been caused by loss of places to live and breed.

Conservation groups? Not enough direct focus on fishes, too few in number, and are already busy taking care of other important initiatives like riparian buffer zone protection, buying land for preservation, stopping acts of exploitation, etc. But fishes will perish in the lack of direct focus.

Politicians? Currently, the regime although illustrious in war is busily churning up the undercurrents to dismantle the clean water act. What progress Bruce Babbitt may have made recently we will surely lose again, these things flood and ebb and we can not rely on protection for the fishes unless a large interest group pushes the political forces in the right direction. No cruise control here, it's up to us.

I could go on and on but I think you get the point. So fish, and fish hearty - but act with twice the vigor. If you don't, be prepared to lose the precious balance of life in the waters to those who do not fish.


05-06-2003, 03:43 PM
Well said Juro;

That seems to be the best way of looking at it. A little philosophy on fly fishing once in a while is a good thing. There is an outstanding book related to this discussion titled, "Meditations on Hunting", I don't recall the author's name but he is from Spain. Hope to see you folks out there soon.


05-06-2003, 04:27 PM
Bill & others:
(fly) Fishing affords us the luxury to release out quarry relatively unharmed - we all know proper techniques for releasing the critters (and if you don't, ASK! we'll help you). I call it a luxury because I can't think of one other blood sport where release is poosible. It is the perogetive & discretion of each (fly) fisheman to return the catch.

I hunt ducks as passionately as I fish. Only a very few times have I intentionally not shot a bird but merely stood and marveled at it's beauty (all of the other times I was punching holes in the sky next to it - but I digress). The memories of the goose flying 20 yards from me like a shot out of Marty Stouffer's films is one I'll not soon forget. The first mallard drake I ever saw in the wild is also burned into my memory.

Along side of these thrilling moments is that sinking feeling brought on by the little rat striper that sucked my fly into it's gills - I don't know if he made it but it was my intention - and the remorse of taking the life of every duck I've killed. Hunting is a two-edged sword but for me, the joys out weigh the sorrows so I will continue to hunt, and fish.

"I'm wondering how many of you have actually had thoughts of giving up the sport over accidentally killing fish.":
Yes Bill, I thought of giving up hunting - it was because I felt nothing after shooting a duck one January morning. I didn't feel happy or sad - just "nothing". I picked it up and kept walking. it happened to be the last day of that season. Afterwards, I thought about it long and hard - I decided to go back the next fall and if I still felt "nothing", I'd hang it up for good. Long story short, I still hunt but it always in the back of my mind...

Also, the book titled "A Hunter's Heart" is a collection of pro & anti hunting essays that provokes many thoughts on the subject. I am due to re-read it soon.

A great topic & discussion.

05-06-2003, 06:21 PM
Hey Sprocket;

Good to hear from you!

The book that I was talking about, "Meditations on Hunting", does not go into views for/against hunting, but rather what makes humans want to do it. I compare the ideas to fly fishing, as both hunting and fishing involve close encounters with wild creatures where humans are predators. Very interesting reading indeed, although I'm told some of it's "power" is lost in the translation. I just looked for the book to get the auther's name and I can't find it.

Don't get me wrong, I've got nothing against taking fish home or hunting for that matter. If you have any ducks in your freezer I'd be happy to roast and eat them. I've just had weird feelings in the past over the accidental killing of fish, that's all.

One of the reasons I started this post was because I screwed up a largemouth bass yesterday, just messing around with the 6 weight. It's unavoidable, but it sucks if it's not for food.

05-06-2003, 08:56 PM
I don't think I'll ever quit fishing because of the risk of harm to the fish, but I do try to minimize that risk by using barbless hooks most of the time and by releasing the fish without removing it from the water and without touching it if possible. If it's one of those fish-per-cast bluefish blitzes or schoolie and shad fests, then I may even use a fly with the point broken off at the barb. Even with a broken hook you still get to feel the hit and fight the fish for a little while. You could even use a totally hookless fly and still have fun just trying to find the fish and get them to hit.


05-06-2003, 10:31 PM
I fish 100% barbless and single fly-only for gamefish... no bait, no barbs, no trebles. But that's how I choose to fish, everyone has a right to choose within the provisions of the law. I choose to go beyond the restraints of the law because I feel it's better for the fish and because I don't think anything more is necessary to catch fish. To each his/her own.


05-07-2003, 07:17 AM
Half the fun of fishing and hunting is being away from cube world at work. Like most people I started fishing as a kid I would occasionally bring fish home and still do. Hunting is another story. I relished in the idea at going hunting with the neighbor and bringing home a ten point buck. At least until a friend came home with his first deer. He was twelve years old and small for his age at that. well that deer had so many hole in it I could not believe it. I counted seven but was told nine. plainly this kid should not have been handling a gun. Nor should the father have allowed more than one shot. That was enough to keep me from ever hunting.
Fishing on the other hand allows us the pleasure of watching a catch swim away if we choose. Or enjoy a good meal.
It is a truly heartless person who feels nothing when they remove a life from the natural world. Enjoy the fishing and know that you have done your best to preserve nature when a fish dies.

Now when did you say you would be fishing the Merrimack?

05-07-2003, 08:38 AM
Mark, Looking forward to joining you for at least some of the days at Newberryport. I certainly identified with your lament over harming anything. Once I hit 50, I gave up hunting, just couldn't kill anything becomes valuable and just too short.
This is certainly not as elegant as what other's have said....but it brings home the point...."Life is like a roll of toilet paper.....the closer you get to the end, the faster it goes" So lets appreciate every minute and I guess that includes our primitive need to "hunt'....but hunt with kindness and respect that our "quarry" deserves.
See ya soon.

05-07-2003, 09:23 AM
Initially, I was thinking that I tend to place more emphasis on the successful release of some species versus others, and I realized that perhaps that's not an ethical means of thought; I should value all species equally. But I don't, and that's just Nature, I suppose. I do, however, get upset to an extent over every fish that I realize is mortally wounded as a result of my having hooked it. What I'm getting at is that I've always, even since I started fishing at 5 or 6, wanted to "put the fish back", though as a youngster it wasn't for the conscious effort to be able to catch that same fish another day; rather, it was because I hated to kill such a beautiful animal. I now C & R for both reasons, and being a marine scientist probably accentuates that more for me personally. I get pretty upset when I hook something, bring it in, and realize that there's no way this fish will live more than another few minutes should it be hooked in the gills or some other vital area; I have been known, on occasion, to nearly come to tears over it, particularly in the case of tuna and sharks. But I still fish, all the same, because for every one fish that won't make it, there are at least 50 that do. I feel that my persuit of the sport puts money into the ultimate conservation of fish and my ability to enjoy wetting a line whenever I have a chance. I'll fish as long as I can; heck, I've even thought about building a rod for my children, neither of which is even conceived yet.

Fishing is indeed a blood sport, but the trade-off is that we learn to appreciate the beauty, fragility, and strength of life forms around us. For that, I am thankful.

Oh, and in case you're wondering, "why tuna and sharks"? To me, they represent the current peak of evolution in the world of fishes, and I hate to see them die at the end of my line. Just my feeling...

05-07-2003, 03:11 PM
I know I may have come into this too late to be noticed but I thought I'd chime in anyway.
First of let me say, Juro, your first post ["who will care?"] was one of the best posts I've seen on any forum for awhile. It ought to be published somewhere where everyone can read it. I especially liked the diplomatic way you addressed the environmental "issues" of the current administration in the Whitehouse. That's a train wreck barreling down on us and most of America is blinded by the "War" [Show me some WOMD!] but I digress.
I'm active in the pet trade and participate in forums there as well. In that capacity, I have run up against some DieHard PETA types. Not to say the original poster is in that class, but the questions raised are relevent to both.
The bottom line is that line of thinking is impractical for human life on Earth. We've been taking lives to enrich ourselves since the dawn of history. Indeed, some would say we were preordained to that role as the Bible relegates all the beasts and birds under our dominion. In modern life we eat lots of meat, we use lots of leather, we drive everywhere squishing countless critters. We destroy their habitat to build our homes and businesses, we pollute their air and water, we out compete them for their food. If we eliminated all these activities, we'd all be Bubble Boys watching ESPN for our thrills while eating organic soy burgers LOL!
Seriously though, if we live our lives to do the least harm possible and do the most good we can, we shouldn't sweat the brief inconvenience we cause most of the fish. As for the ones that don't make it, call it Collateral Damage.