Wisdom behind catch-and-release

I don’t know how many times over the years I have been asked how I can claim to be a practitioner of catch-and-release

I don’t know how many times over the years I have been asked how I can claim to be a practitioner of catch-and-release while, at the same time, also write in my column sometimes about cooking and preparing fish for a meal.

The answer is simple: I enjoy fishing.

I do not see a conflict between catch-and-release and eating fish. Truth be told, there is an ever-increasing number of reasons why there is something to be said for catching and cooking fish from local waters. Quite simply, it is safer and healthier than using farmed or imported fish.

I release the vast majority of fish I catch immediately and only keep a fish when I plan to eat it – usually right away as a shore lunch. I do not catch fish and put them in the freezer.

I buy most of the fish I cook at home from one of several fresh fish shops in the area. That, however, is a  whole other kettle of fish.

As much as I enjoy fishing and eating fish, I do have concerns about wild fish stock populations and, consequently, advocate the practice of catch-and-release as a means of helping to prevent fish populations from dwindling or disappearing from what are, in certain cases, too heavily fished waters. I have completely stopped salmon fishing altogether and have stated that I will not cast another line for Interior salmon until their numbers come back significantly. I can only hope.

A fair number of B.C.’s salmon and trout waters have been designated “catch-and-release fishing only,” in an attempt to preserve the quality of sport fishing. Catch-and-release has been similarly promoted by governments as a management tool in an effort to reduce the cost of rearing and using stocked fish, while at the same time ensuring the sustainability of natural fish stocks.

Countless studies have measured the effectiveness of catch and release on fish mortality and, in pretty well each and every study, the link between fish mortality and post release survival rates boils down to one thing: the amount of stress fish are subjected to while on the line.

To put things in simpler terms, the manner in which fish are caught and played is as important as the manner in which they are released. Most fish are caught using either some form of artificial lure or natural bait. Numerous studies have compared mortality rates and angling methods, and have found the use of artificial baits, such as lures or flies, does significantly reduce both the incidence of fish swallowing bait too deeply and the rates of fish mortality. A majority of fish mortality studies would also seem to indicate the physiological effects of stress (as a result of being caught) are usually pretty well reversed within a 24-hour period. One could infer from these studies that the use of heavy tackle is desirable in lowering mortality rates, and conversely, that lighter tackle and lower strength lines may increase the risk of mortality.

Common sense, as well as scientific data, show the longer fish are out of the water the more they become stressed, and that a minimal amount of handling not only reduces the amount of post-catch stress, but also the risk of physical injury due to struggling and loss of body slime.

Holding a fish out of the water puts added stress on its inner body and organs that are, in part, held in place by the external force of water pressure. I cradle fish right on the surface – but still in the water – when removing the hook.

Proper catch-and-release practices are important not only to the survival of fish that are caught, but also to the future of fish generations in years to come.


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Plan in works to keep Salmon Arm’s homeless people warm in extreme weather

Advocate aims higher, wants a 24/7 friendship centre operating in city

CSRD’s plan to create economic development society meets resistance

Electoral Area E director wants to withdraw area from the proposal

A Salmon Arm mortgage investment corporation faces BC Securities hearing

Securities commission alleges misrepresentations and false or misleading statements in documents

Salmon Arm prepares for Rogers Hometown Hockey

Businesses and residents encouraged to wear jerseys, show their hockey spirit

UBCO students raise funds for those affected by Philippine volcano eruption

All proceeds will be donated to the Philippine Red Cross

B.C. RCMP spent roughly $750K on massive manhunt for Port Alberni men

Manitoba RCMP helped with 17-day search through the province’s northern terrain

Future space homes could be made of mushrooms

NASA explores use of fungi to build structures in space

Empty speedboat sinks off Kelowna shore on Okanagan Lake

This is the third report of a boat found in the lake in the past two weeks

Man killed by police in Lytton called 911, asking to be shot: RCMP

Howard Schantz, also known as Barry Schantz was killed following a standoff at his Lytton home

UPDATE: Revelstoke City Council gives themselves a raise, councillor resigns in protest

The mayor’s pay is set to go from $30,000 to $60,000 over three years

Kelowna General Hospital takes steps to prevent spread of coronavirus

So far, at least six people have died and 275 people have contracted the virus worldwide

Most Read