Catch and Release vs. Keep

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Orvis Clearwater Rod

There is always an ongoing heated debate on C & R (catch and release) within the ultralight fishing community. The debate usually centers on whether or not catch and release is better than just fishing for a meal. C & R is all about enjoying the outdoors and nature with the thrill of catching a fish every now and again.

What the average angler does with the fish often depends on a variety of factors that are not always as simple as good or bad. Some anglers believe that every fish that is caught should always be released, while others believe just the opposite. Some anglers believe the catching of fish just to release them back into their natural habitat is a cruel gesture and that if a fish is to be caught, it should be consumed.

Other anglers believe both things, and that the sport of fishing is a fundamental way to enjoy free time, and that consuming a fish one catches is a great way to feed oneself. Catch and release is also a popular practice in the sport of ultralight fishing. For some ultralight fishing enthusiasts, they just don’t like the fish however that shouldn’t stop them enjoying the thrill of the catch.

Catch and Release is a common ultralight fishing practice
photo credit: Aquila-chrysaetos via photopin cc

Rethinking the Slot Limit

The enjoyment of catch and release has quickly become a major concern for many biologists and fishery managers. In all honesty, C & R has been under significant scrutiny for a long time. Fishery biologists make claims that the only sure way a “slot limit” can really work when managing a lake, is by  eating the captured smaller fish (fish under the slot limit) in significant quantities. However, that goes against the current trends with those associated with bass fishing.

It is the biologists’ beliefs that by promoting catch and release as an efficient fishery plan there would be a balance in the amount of fish that are caught for fresh food, and no fishing simply for sport. As a result though, catch and release has become an anglers dream, were few keep the fish they catch.

Know your limit when ultralight fishingphoto credit: Duncan Rawlinson. via photopin cc

C & R Can Create a Negative Impact

Recent research has indicated that catch and release can have a negative impact over the long term. Smaller fish that tend to be aggressive can quickly consume most of the food resources and leave the larger fish without a food supply. Biologists are quick to claim that smaller fish tend to forage quicker and more often, based on their size, then they are worth in the value of the lake community. As a result, large fish are left with less food resources and will not grow nearly as quickly as they do under premium conditions when there is a large source of food to consume.

New studies are indicating that imposed limits are not working quite as efficiently as once believed. Some biologists believe that the way to catch and release system is set up currently; the process might be stimulating an undesired evolution of a variety of fish. Additionally, the process of catch and release is helping to teach fish exactly how to avoid being captured the next time.

Fish Are Becoming Smarter

There are studies that are indicating that many fish, including bass, tend to become smarter, after being captured on a lure. Experience teaches them ways of not being so easily caught a second time.

Striking the perfect balance between killing and C & R (catch and release) involves the process of creating a selective harvest that is more natural. However, this likely will not be easy to accomplish. Anglers are not inclined to keep every fish caught on a single day, and will need to understand the new ethics involved in properly managing the lake.

However, to be successful will require some type of compromise. One way to do this is to train new anglers and get them involved in the sport. Throwing back the little ones, just to keep the large ones will need to be avoided in the future. As new anglers seek to enjoy the sport more than just capturing the “designer” fish will help manage the waters.

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