Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Coup de grâce....or catch and release?

I fished a middle Eden beat last night just as the river was fining down after the heavy rains of last weekend. As I was stringing-up a fellow angler arrived. He was a very nice chap who was a regular holidaying angler to the area. He preceded to tell me about a good days fishing on a tributary of the Eden which included a catch of six wild trout. The three largest were 1.5, 1.75 and 2lb+...which for this small stream was a real red letter day. My admiration for the angler came to an abrupt halt when he gleefully went on to tell that he kept the three largest fish.

Now, I'm not a catch and release purist and I do not think it should be a religion. However, the taking of these three wonderful wild trout from this tiny stream seems to be on the excessive side. On such small waters I really do feel that anglers have to exhibit some sort of restraint and that Catch and Release is the only option if consistent quality fishing is to be sustained. As a sportsman I would always want to reserve the right to take a fish for the pot, but only where it is sustainable and certainly not on a small stream.

I feel a wild fish is just too special to be enjoyed
only once!

After this rather disappointing interaction I made my way down to the river and enjoyed a very absorbing two hours on the dry fly with some very tricky wild trout. These fish were fit for purpose and were full of aerial combat tactics and not at all like their lethargic farmed cousins who have grown fat on a diet of unsustainable fish meals!

If you are unsure about catch and Release here are a few basic pointers:
  • Use barbless hooks, or debarb the hook with small pliers or forceps.

  • Use tackle that is strong enough to bring the fish to hand quickly to avoid overtiring the fish. The longer a fish is played, the more lactic acid is built up which in turn threatens the survival of the fish.
  • Do not remove the fish from the water after playing it. It would be like you trying to hold your breath for a few minutes after running a marathon. Fish cannot hold their breath, and so may suffer damage to their gills and respiratory system. Lactic acid build up from playing the fish cannot be metabolised and poisons the fish.
  • Wherever possible use a de-hooker to safely and quickly remove the hook without the need to remove the fish from the water, or even handle the fish. These are innexpensive and stocked by many good tackle shops. Ketchum Release, Orvis, Stonefly etc.

  • Use a net if it is the only way of controlling the fish. Only use a knotless net, cotton mesh or rubber net to avoid damage to the eyes, gills, fins and body.
  • Wet your hands when handling the fish. Dry hand or gloves will remove the protective mucous membrane (slime) that covers the fish, exposing it to waterborne infection and disease.
  • Do not squeeze the fish, do not hold it near the gills or eyes.
  • Gently hold the fish under the belly, facing the current, allowing it to recover until it swims away. This is a good time for a photo opportunity.
  • Congratulate yourself on your contribution to the future of game angling!