Sustainability In Sport Fishing – A Guide’s Opinion
A Guide’s Opinion
Sustainability is a constant factor in today’s fisherman’s conversation. We’ve all heard the old tales stories of our parents and grandparents about the good old days when you could quickly fill the bottom of the tin boat with fish and go home happy. They were never even thinking twice about if our precious resources would ever get impacted by our actions.
With an increasing number of recreational anglers across the country enjoying the outdoors and more access to lakes and rivers becomes available to the general public, we, as a community, need to pay attention to how we may impact the world-class fisheries we have.
We can no longer play ignorant and tell ourselves that fish are an endless resource. We need to look at the data the various conservation agencies put together and listen to the directives on catch limits, slot sizes and specific periods of the year when a species might be better off left alone. Either during their spawning activities or when the water temperature gets too warm.
Proper catch-and-release techniques are key
It cannot be emphasized enough. The survivability of fish is exponentially higher when anglers practice proper catch-and-release techniques. It’s been proven over and over again with many studies.
Simple things such as limiting the amount of time a fish is out of the water can significantly impact its survivability. Using barbless hooks on your lures and pinching in the barbs on traditional lures is an easy way to mitigate sore mouths and potential injuries to fish. Injured fish might not have the capabilities to hunt and feed themselves properly, driving them to an early demise.
The use of fish-friendly nets made of soft rubber instead of the old-school nylon mesh nets will significantly help keep the slime coating on a fish’s skin, keeping them healthier and free of parasites, bacterias that can be harmful.
But by far, the most significant factor of a fish’s survivability of a fish is to properly handle them by keeping them in the net submerged in the water. At the same time, remove the hooks, get your camera and phone ready for pictures BEFORE grabbing the fish out of the water for a quick photo for bragging rights.
If the water temperature on the body of water you are fishing on exceeds 80 degrees, please refrain from bringing the fish out of the water as heat exhaustion caused by the fight and the handling in shallow warmer water is one of the biggest causes of fish fatalities. Yes, they might swim away looking OK, but a lot of those fish won’t have the energy to properly recuperate and eventually collapse to the bottom of the lake out of exhaustion.
Quotas and catch limit
On the lake I guide on, we welcome over 2 million recreational anglers a year. Hypothetically speaking, over a few days trip, every angler uses their catch limit of two walleyes a day to cook a shore lunch and brings home another two walleyes to feed their friends and family.
The number quickly adds up to several millions of fish coming out of the lakes every year. Our regional conservation agency estimate around 15 million walleyes gets taken out of the lake each year. These numbers prove the immensely healthy fishery we are blessed to have, considering it is a natural lake with no stockings done whatsoever.
It would be foolish to think that we are not putting a tremendous amount of pressure on this incredible fishery, but yet it keeps bouncing back year after year. However, the amount of sizeable, large mature specimens is on the decline by listening to the tales of older guides on the lake.
Considering those same anglers will likely catch and release, on average, an additional 15 to 30 walleyes, the importance of proper catch-and-release becomes much more significant.
In Canada, we have the opportunity to have access to world-class fisheries by simply buying a very affordable fishing license. All the proceeds go directly to conservation efforts towards our precious resources. We must follow the rules and regulations to keep those fisheries healthy and sustainable for the next generations to enjoy.
A few Youtube videos and articles can easily be enough to educate yourself on the subject of proper catch-and-release techniques. Properly implemented, those techniques paired with a bit of common sense will ensure the sustainability and health of our lakes and rivers.