Anglers and Fishery Management is going to ruffle a few feathers. All anglers believe they are doing the right thing. If you look at the state of many waters across the U.S.A. the truth is different. Overfishing on many waters, along with poor catch and release practices harm the fisheries. Anglers seek large catch rates and a personal best. This is fine but care needs to be taken to protect the fish.
I watch YouTube and see bass anglers targeting beds all the time. Sure it makes a great video. What does it do to the fish though? A bass caught once or twice on a bed is not a problem but too many times and they abandon the nest. This results in poor reproduction. One or two years of low reproduction is all it takes to ruin a lake or section of a river. Lake Arthur in Pennsylvania is a perfect example.
The lake once was a great large-mouth fishery. Bass 3-4 pounds were common until overfishing occurred. Today it is a dead lake for bass. The pressure from bass clubs and tournaments has killed off the bass population. Every day from ice out to late fall the lake saw a lot of pressure. Anglers took the bass to the weigh-ins. Usually far from the place caught. As a result, disrupting reproduction and stability. Plus many bass died from poor handling. This is the anglers’ fault and poor management of a fishery.
Catch and Release
Release the fish when and where you have caught them. This reduces stress. Prepare in advance to take pictures. When the fish is out of the water is not the time. Have the camera or phone set and ready. Unhook the fish, hold it up and take the picture. Then release it within 1-2 minutes. A good rule is to keep a fish out of the water only as long as you can hold your breath. This is the proper catch and release practice.
Fish that are foul hooked likely do not survive. Anglers trying to remove a hook deep in the mouth cause harm. The pulling and fidgeting with a hook deep in the mouth cause too much bleeding. A fish does not survive this action. This is delayed mortality. Anglers need to cut the hook or line leaving as little as possible. This gives the fish a higher chance of survival. A pair of wire cutters or bolt cutters need to be part of your tackle. This way hooks can be cut easily and quickly.
There is nothing wrong with keeping a few fish to eat. They make a tasty meal. Use self-discipline and do not over-harvest a species. Take what can be eaten and release all others. Also let the big fish go back in the water. Bigger fish have the genetics to reproduce more big fish. Taking the big fish and releasing the runts creates more small fish. This is common in lakes everywhere with panfish.
Anglers Co-operation and Fishery Management
I hear anglers complain about governing bodies for fish management. Some anglers believe what they think is better than biologists. All states have biologists monitoring the fish populations and growth. In other words, they have the data to make informed decisions. The average angler does not have all the data. They go by what they experience which is limited in the bigger picture.
Biologists spend hours collecting sample catches from bodies of water. The data helps to plan future stocking or regulation changes. When seeing a decline reducing the limit or stocking is needed. On the other hand too many of a species will allow more harvesting. In some areas, this is common with northern pike. They will overpopulate and damage a fishery if left unchecked. This is not a normal occurrence since many species tend to be over-harvested.
Anglers can help management with the local agencies. Become an active volunteer by helping with stocking efforts. Also fill out surveys when asked to do them. This is an effective managing tool for biologists. Knowing what anglers are catching and where helps with planning in-depth studies. This will help improve the waters you fish. A few small steps are going to help so do not blow off helping. Little steps do make a difference. Learn more at this website.
The future of fishing needs anglers and fishery management agencies working together. I am an older fisherman and have seen what poor practice does to a fishery. It is everyone’s responsibility to improve fishing. A “me-too” attitude will not help the fishing. If you believe bed fishing or keeping everything you catch is fine. You are part of the problem. Be reasonable and practice selective harvest, also let fish reproduce naturally. The cost of poor management makes fishing less productive.