People enjoy eating the fish they catch. It is a practice with centuries of history. Anglers need to understand some fish need to be released. Selective harvesting of fish helps maintain a healthy fishery. Keeping all the fish is a bad habit. Keeping the larger fish is worse. The bigger fish are females and produce more offspring.
The larger the fish the more eggs they lay during the spawn. Allowing the larger fish to live produces more fish to grow up. At times an angler wants to have a mount of a trophy fish. Take a picture, measure the length and girth to get a mount. Taxidermists use replicas for making mounts. It is easier and cheaper, plus it allows the fish to live.
There are other reasons to release larger fish. The big ones take years to achieve their size. These fish are consuming smaller fish, crayfish, and other aquatic life. These all contain some toxins from the waterways. The larger fish have a concentration of the toxins from a lifetime of consumption. All waters have the toxins and some are worse than others.
Selective Harvesting by Size
A fish reaches the minimum size in 2-3 years for many species. A few take longer. The longer it takes a fish to reach legal size influences how many to harvest. An example is the panfish family. They reach a harvest-able size in 3 to 4 years. Same with Walleye and most bass species.
The larger game fish such as pike or musky can take 5-8 years or longer. Plus the smaller species breed at a faster rate. Biologists take these factors into account when setting size and harvest limits. Some anglers think they know better but research says otherwise.
The biologists make surveys collecting data on fish population and size in the waterways. This shows how the population is holding up and if measures are needed to sustain the numbers. Areas with too many fish will have larger limits and sometimes a smaller harvest size. Areas with too few fish will have a large size to keep, and small harvest numbers. This is done to maintain a healthy population in the waterway.
Anglers wanting to help will study the waterway reports. Plus practice selective harvesting to protect the future of the fishing. In many instances keeping the fish the minimum size to 3-4 inches larger is fine. There are adequate numbers of these size fish. Letting larger fish go to breed ensures more of the harvest size fish in the future.
Best Practices for Anglers
Read and understand the regulations for where you fish. Anglers listen to other people and are given bad information. In many states, a lot of waters have their own regulations. What can be kept in one lake is different from others. Check the use of baits, some are unlawful due to environmental issues. Use bait from the water you are fishing if possible. If not available use commercial bait or from a bait shop.
See if the governing body is asking for data on species. States will ask fishermen to take a survey. The surveys vary but usually ask size, location, and how many were caught. A few will target endangered or threatened species.
Learn proper catch and release methods. Fish die after being released from poor handling. It is easy and effective to properly handle and release fish. You can still take a picture to post. Anglers only need a few tools to make releasing better for the fish.
Clean up when you leave a spot. Leaving garbage behind pollutes the water. Take a small trash bag or a few shopping bags and place all the trash in the bags. Dispose of the bag in a trash can or at home. Take a few minutes to clean other people’s trash also. There are lazy and selfish people fishing that do not care. Be better and make a difference.
A few easy practices will improve fishing. Selective harvesting is one along with a few others. Learn about the species and the waters you fish. Release fish in a safe and healthy way. Always leave an area cleaner than you found it when fishing. These couple of tips improve the fisheries. Providing for the future enjoyment of fishing.