Thoughts on Catch and Release? [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: Thoughts on Catch and Release?

04-19-2002, 10:57 AM
I've been pondering this question for a few weeks now and I wanted to poll the audience for their thoughts on catch and release in the salt.

I have been a trout FFisherman for nigh on 20 years now and my philosphy on catch and release has been: if the fish are native, release all the time. If the fish are stocked, take only ones you plan on eating. I recall 2 instances in my youth that I kept some fish when, after researching the fishery, realized that I shouldn't have. Once on Warm Springs Creek in N Idaho, I caught and kept a Westslope Cutthroat and once on the Deschutes in Oly WA I caught and kept 2 sea-run cutts.

Before I get too long winded, what are some thoughts from the audience on catch and release in the saltwater environment? When is it appropriate for a coastal FF to keep his/her catch?

Thanks for your thoughts!


Dble Haul
04-19-2002, 11:20 AM
I am a catch and release fisherman, although I have kept a couple of fish over the years that were hooked very deeply or bleeding from the gills and I knew that they wouldn't survive. So I guess that I checked the 100% catch and release, but there's an asterisk next to it. :p

04-19-2002, 11:40 AM
I too am a catch and release fisherman - well am I?

Up until about 6 years ago I used to bring fish home for the pot. Then I got onto C&R but when I think about it not completely:

In 1998 I went down to Cabo and had ;lots of fun with Yellowfin Tuna up to 20lb on flies - most went back but one came back to the hotel and the sashimi was awesome. Same trip and a few spanish macks were delivered to a local grill and came back as ceviche to die for. Since then I taken a few Barracuda (Guides eat them), Jacks and Mangrove Snappers.

So, I voted for the take only what you intend to eat button although most of the time I am C&R.

04-19-2002, 12:35 PM
I'm a 99% C&R fisherman (fresh and salt) but have occasionally kept a fish for the table. Generally, the only fish I will keep from fresh water are stocked trout that were hooked in such a way that they were mortally wounded or took a long time to unhook. In saltwater, I have kept several small bluefish, a couple of fluke and a couple of stripers (one was my first keeper and the other was caught on a charter trip). I intend to keep my first bonito if I ever get so lucky as to actually catch one, and I may keep other fish on occasion if the circumstances make it convenient to do so (i.e., I'm not about to lug a dead fish around all day or drag one back from the end of Napatree).

04-19-2002, 02:37 PM
99.9% of the time I release. On rare accasions I'll keep a stiper ( don't shun me now) in our slot between 20" - 26" to make a nice meal for my wife. I also keep a couple of small brookies from I pond I camp at with the boys for breakfast. Other than thaty It's back in the drink.

04-19-2002, 04:54 PM
I could not check the 100%, because 100% is 100%.

Different species get different treatment - for instance fluke in a bumper year. That being said I have retained one striper last year, and one striper the year before. Before that I had not retained a striper in over 15 years.

Therefore I checked the last one.

04-19-2002, 06:29 PM
I Checked the last one
I ALWAYS keep the limit from various "put & take" lakes that are stocked by the Fisheries folks in both Alberta & BC.
I eat a few and give the others away.
"Put & Take" stocking programs rely on a substantial "take", when this does not happen, there are too many fish for the level of food available, and then fish eventually atrophy or worse get diseases.
The same is NOT true in other stocking programs where the objective may be to enhance the fishery... and/or re-stock when winter kill devatates a fishery.
Still very ambivalent about stocking programs that want to introduce or re-introduce "new species or lost species"in any watershed... but that is the subject of another post someday..
All other fishes, either stoked/hatchery or wild are released.

04-19-2002, 07:33 PM
I had to check the box that stated keep what you eat. Every once in a blue moon I'll keep a bluefish or two. My in laws love the taste of it. Myself? Yuk! I was put of on keeping fish about 20 years ago. A "friend" of mine would take me out in his boat almost every day. When the blues were running, we would land 20 to 30 fish a day. I would keep 1 or 2 for the previous stated reason. After that, I would throw plugs without hooks. The fish would put up a great fight and then swim away unharmed. My "friend" would keep every thing he could. :( 1 day it would be 12 blues, the next 15 more. And so on. I asked him one day what he was going to do with all of that blue fish. "I'll freeze it and eat it later." he said. Now, IMHO, blue fish doesn't go into the freezer tasteing all that good. I can't imagine what it tastes like after several months in the freezer. In short, this man took several hundred blue fish that season. Kept every one. After that, I have encouraged C&R. What a waste. :mad: Now that I am a father of 2 young girls, I try to teach them about the value of doing the right thing. I think it's working. LLast year, my oldest girl would ask if I caught any fish. If I said yes I did, SHe would then ask; "Did you let him back into the ocean so he could be with all his friends?" Woh could say no to that?:)

04-19-2002, 09:03 PM
I don't want to advocate the killing of fish in any way. But C&R is not always a good thing. First of all when the water temps get into the warmer side of normal, the disolved oxygen levels can get considerably lower. Fish that get caught and played at length can die hours later. In some instances those death rates can be in the neighborhood of 15-20%. In those cases what is better, catching a limit and going home, or catching a couple of hundred, killing 20-30 fish, and keeping none.

In many of the european areas they consider a fish that has been released to be "spent". A very large majority of the trout that are caught in Europe are stockies. Still they are strong hot fighting fish. Fish that are caught and released several times tend to lose their "will" to fight, are exposed to diease, and are often injured in the process.

The only clear idea in "catch and release" is that their is no correct answer. The main goal of all of us is the protection and expansion of our fishing resource. An approach that weighs all the factors of a specific area, and specific time of year is most likely the best option.

John W. Wilson

04-20-2002, 06:48 AM
You raise a good point John -

But most certainly, catch and release is a good thing IMHO.

BUT the method by which the original "catch" occurred and the "release" iteself must be done properly. Also environmental factors, e.g. warm, low oxygenated water play a huge part.

Examples: a gut hooked fish, holding a fish with a knee on the sand to extract a hook, three sets of barbed trebles verses a single barbless hook, nylon mesh netting to lift a fish to shore, throwing a fish from the bridge, grabbing a trout with dry hands, using too light of a rod, etc, etc.

Even if you play a fish aggresively, keep it in the water as you pluck the barbless hook from it's jaw, and do everything right - if the water is oxygen depleted the fish may in fact suffer or die. These conditions should be avoided or the fish should be eaten.

But in the ocean striped bass fishery these water conditions are rare, western steelhead and trout streams are cold, vibrant streams through most of the year, and hardy warmwater species like bass and pike live to fight again and again. I would argue that most small to medium gamefishing C&R is a successful approach to enjoyment without significant depletion of the resource, and given adoption of better techniques it could be a far smaller impact than it is today.

I don't feel so confident about big offshore gamefishing; those sailfish and marlin look like they went thru hell when they are released sometimes. Could just be my unfamiliarity with it.

Anyway, when a big striper gives me that F-U look and soaks my face as it tears back into the tiderip, or when that steelhead disappears into the stealthiest part of the riverbed as quickly as I can snap my finger, I am confident I am not contributing to the incidental kill numbers.

As a kid I'd ride my bike to Menotomy Rocks Park and make a circuit around the pond with a hula popper or a jitterbug. There was a largemouth with a split lower jaw and a chunk of the left gillcover missing, old "splitlip". I would catch that thing by the willows, by the stump, off the wall, or near the fountain for years and years. Furthermore, when my circle of fishing buddies caught him, I'd hear about it next day at school.

That fish taught me a big lesson about catch and release - it really works.

04-20-2002, 08:12 AM

Once again you bring up some very good points. Salt water fisheries are a completely different situation from cold water species. You have considerable perspective, and expertise that I truly enjoy hearing. I will have a hard time not writing a 4 page letter on this topic

The one thing I didn't put in that response is that I haven't purposely killed a fish in over 15 years. I have empathy and respect for the fish I catch, almost to a fault. Since I use a live animal for my entertainment, I try my best to give them the care and respect they deserve. I am probably one of the largest advocates of catch and release that the White River systems have.

I hear the bait fishers (aka corn dunkers) argue "one sidedly", that put and take fisheries are set up to be catch and kill. That converting sections of the river to C&R would have a negative economic impact on the surrounding community. And that fly fishers are generally elitist snobs, that only want C&R to block portions of the river for their own personal use. The fly fishers argue that to kill a fish is something that only a toothless, cow tipping, tobacco spitting, redneck would do. That doesn't help our argument much either.

What I am trying to say is that it is C&R is like any other political argument. This forum does a fantastic job of attracting intelligent participants. Rarely is their one side to an issue, and it is important to make an informed decision.


04-20-2002, 08:26 AM

As Juro stated, you make a good point. The nature of the "catch" and the release are very important. And as you said, there is no correct answer. I believe, that all of here on the forum, are committed to maintaining and protecting our fishing resources. I was referring to the more or less indiscriminate killing of fish. My "friend" ended up throwing out 90% of the fish he froze. INHO that is simply wrong.

Now on a different subject. Let me apologize for the spelling and grammer of my last post. I'll ask all of my friends to remind me that I should never "post" after working a 48 hour shift with 1 hour sleep. There is something to be said about sleep deprivation.:hehe:

04-20-2002, 08:43 AM
Jimmy - I forgot to mention that I really enjoyed your post. What your daugther said puts it all into perspective.

Keeping a fish now and then is a nice part of angling for sure, but I know what you mean about folks who se the fish they catch as "possesions".

I guess the C&R angler 'posseses' all the knowledge, satisfaction, and memories of released fish in their minds without needing to possess the animals flesh all the time.

04-20-2002, 05:29 PM
...Like the saying goes...
"A game fish is too valuable to catch only once!"
Last year my almost 90 year old mom meekly asked if I might please bring her home a fish to eat...
After scolding and lecturing her on the importance of C&R (just kidding!), I left for Chatham with my YAK and a rondezvous with the outgoing tide...I did catch a 37"er late in the afternoon...The timing couldn't have been better but, putting that fish down was a real trauma (for both of us)...I really felt BAD!
Well bled, put on ice immediately, and grilled up that night...the fish was as good as it gets, but my "keepers/eaters" were few and far between...

Now that I am "retired" from the military and on a "fixed/reduced" income, I may start wearing a "WILL FISH FOR FOOD" t-shirt... Keeping a "victim" for the grill will probably lead to repressed guilt and high anxiety...but isn't that why the VA supplies Prozac?!

Notice to big fish: Bite early and you will ALWAYS live to swim another day! ...'wait until closing and you're pushing your luck!...

04-20-2002, 06:57 PM
Pete -

With a gilligan hat, hawaiian shirt, cheap sunglasses and a fluke rig you could fill the fridge with fillets that make striper pale in comparison right down the street from your new abode. Second thought, pick up an extra pair at Christmas tree shop and I'll join you :P

C&R is perhpas more important when targeting species that are up in their respective food chains, like a cow bass laden with eggs.

04-20-2002, 08:09 PM
It can take a while to get to the C&R stage... Maybe we can accelarate it...
Stage 1- Catch a fish (after all try telling a 6 to 10 year old any different, this is the stage to explore and encourage C&R in the proper circumstances, most of them have been noted in prior posts)
Stage 2- Catch LOTS of fish (remember those days? (from 12 to 15 years old, with panfish like Perch, rock bass etc, keeping a few or more for a good fish fry that mom would cook up)
Stage 3- Catch a BIG fish (It happens at any age, this is often where the issue of C&R becomes most contentious, a picture is just simply not the same as a nice baked one from the oven, but, it will never return to spawn)
Stage 4 - Catch LOTS of BIG fish (the stage where ego takes over and C&R faces its greatest test, how else can you brag at the tavern, now that you can go there with your bud's, unlessyou have a cooler full of BIG fish to prove your prowess as a fisherperson)
Stage 5- Going Fishing (you now understand that the reason for fishing is way beyond catching, its R&R, its stalking, its all of the things that so many members of the forum constantly talk about, outwitting the other partner in this game, it could be teaching a young'un about C&R)
What stage are you at?

04-22-2002, 10:47 AM
All here are probably lucky enough not to have to rely on our catch to feed our families, but we'd do well to realize that in the upward march of evolution, we're barely decades into the wisdom of C&R. And there are fishermen very near here on jetties in Boston for whom releasing fish is a luxury they literally cannot afford.

I checked the conditional box. Every year, I take and keep bluefish for the smoker. And every couple of years, I consciously kill a bass and eat it. I take this seriously. My kids know I silently send a "to Whom it may concern" thank-you out to the universe. And we talk about the taking of life in the context not only of what just happenend to a fish on a beach, but how we come to have leather belts and shoes, and white foam trays with chicken and steak from the supermarket. It's all of a piece, and the decision should never be trivial. Good thoughtful responses; a pleasure to learn what you're all thinking.

04-22-2002, 01:50 PM

I personally checked off the Keep only what you plan to eat. In my personal case I have not kept a striper or blue in 10 years. I have not kept a trout in 18 years.I have kept a flounder or two in the past two years. Not that I think there is anything wrong with someone keeping one or two for dinner but a personal preference. I love sea food but I'll leave that to the professionals who make a living of supplying our supermarkets.

I chose the my c&r path from seeing what it can do to a fishery. I have a stream by me that at one time harbored great numbers of BIG trout. Once a big local secret was no more once loose lips sank the ship. Soon there was droves of worm dunking booze driven animals keeping anything and everything. The stream has a 5 fish limit per day. I saw guys keeping 10-15 a day and bragging! Some were not big enough to identify as a fish. Within two years it was almost picked clean. Now since the fishing there is bad on a good day the crowds have left and the stocked fish and the natives have a chance to grow again. But for how long?

On the Hudson we have a limit of 1 fish per day 18 inches or better. I dont think in the past 10 years I have ever witnessed a person keep just one! Most people bring a plastic shopping bag and blood worms and wont leave a spot until the bag is filled with schoolies. I have personally scolded and repremanded many people for their un-ethical practices as well as informing the DEP,DEC and any other Environmental group that would listen. This was the first year that I saw Law Enforcement out giving tickets and confiscating boats and tackle. I could not have been happier.

I think there is a happy medium out there were fish can be harvested as well as keeping the stocks healthy to insure a bright future for those who choose to release their catch.