Is fishing unethical?

Colin_T

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So, a few thoughts about catch and release from someone who actually does it. All respect to Colin, anybody who uses a dry rag to hold the rish, uses a "huge iron hook," or rips out a chunk of flesh when they remove same, isn't doing it right; either you're committing a bit of a straw-man, or Aussies don't know how to catch and release.

Around here it's a big no-no to catch and release when the water's warm (low O2 content stresses the fish); so is handling a fish with dry hands, not to mention a dry cloth! What kind of moron does that??? 😵‍💫 It is standard procedure to remove the hook with needle nose pliers or forceps to minimize damage, and if you do it right the fish is out of water for several seconds, not several minutes.
I didn't use a dry rag to hold fish when fishing, we had a bucket of water with a rag resting on it to handle fish. However, lots of people use a dry rag, dry rubber glove, or just use pliers to hold the fish and jiggle the hook out of its mouth.

The more common thing used these days is a clamp that they put on the bottom jaw and suspend the fish by the bottom jaw saying this is the best way to hold a fish. When they let the fish go, it usually has a huge hole in the skin of the bottom jaw where the clamp has ripped through the skin. This reduces the fish's ability to feed and breath because it no longer has a fully enclosed jaw to trap water when opening its mouth to engulf food or get water to pass over its gills. It's like a bellows with a rip in it, it doesn't work properly.


Why do people catch and release? To keep skills sharp for the real thing, as I said. With most game species, it's the only way to observe them close-up. The colors of a spawning brookie bring me such a sense of wonder and awe that to me it's worth putting the poor guy through some momentary stress. And may the critters forgive me, but catching them is extremely fun.
As for keeping their skills sharp, I used to go fishing with my dad when I was a kid. We caught fish and ate them. I stopped fishing in my teens and didn't do it again until 2016 when I was dying on the street. I found a handline and some hooks in an old backpack that had been dumped in the bush. I used the gear to catch fish to eat. It didn't take me any time to remember how to cast a handline or tie a hook, and I caught a fish on my first go. So needing to keep your skills sharp is not a valid excuse. If I can pick up a handline after not using one for over half a century and catch fish the first go, you don't need to keep your skills sharp.


Is it cruel? Well, the fish don't seem to be having fun, and I generally am. On the other hand, no lasting harm is done if it's done right, and usually even if it's done wrong. That's a fact, backed by lots of scientific research (the Game and Fish Department cares about that sort of thing, and they do the research).
There's no way you can tell if there's no lasting harm done unless you go underwater and monitor those fish for the next month. They do suffer stress and do suffer from physical injuries caused by the hooks, regardless of if it is barbless or barbed and takes out a piece of flesh.

I have seen fish get eaten while being reeled in, and eaten after they are released back into the water (in fresh and salt water). That wouldn't have happened if the fish wasn't caught by a human.

Unless Fish & Game (in the US) or equivalent departments (Department of Fisheries in Western Australia) have actually studied fish that have been caught, they can say what they want but have no proof. They are bureaucrats that shuffle papers and most haven't got a clue about fish or fish behaviour. I have been up against the Department of Fisheries here and had discussions about all sorts of fish related topics including bag limits and minimum sizes for fish. They really don't have a clue. Same issue with AQIS (Australian Quarantine Inspection Services), they don't have a clue either. Whilst there might be some people in the US Department of Fish & Game that go fishing and know a bit about fish, I highly doubt any of them have ever studied fish before and after the fish were caught and released. I have, and the fish suffer stress and physical damage.

Government departments are designed to enforce laws and collect money, and only have the animal's welfare in mind when it hits the news. If they really cared they would ban hooks with barbs. That would help. They would promote sensible ways to euthanise a fish instead of breaking its neck (usually done by snapping the gills and throat) or leaving it in a bucket of air. They would have people monitoring fishing spots and say you can't have 200 undersized live fish in a bucket without water. Yes I have seen that and people have pulled knives on me because I suggested they didn't keep so many undersized fish. Whilst you might follow the laws and try to take care of the fish you catch, not everyone does and there is nobody policing that in most areas.

If you want to go catch a few fish to eat, that's fine, but in my opinion, catch and release for enjoyment is not enjoyable for the fish, nor is it harmless to the fish, and it does leave an impression on the fish, which generally won't feed for at least several days after they have been caught. The wound caused by the hook is also an entry point for harmful disease organisms (bacteria & fungus).
 

WhistlingBadger

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I didn't use a dry rag to hold fish when fishing, we had a bucket of water with a rag resting on it to handle fish. However, lots of people use a dry rag, dry rubber glove, or just use pliers to hold the fish and jiggle the hook out of its mouth.

The more common thing used these days is a clamp that they put on the bottom jaw and suspend the fish by the bottom jaw saying this is the best way to hold a fish. When they let the fish go, it usually has a huge hole in the skin of the bottom jaw where the clamp has ripped through the skin. This reduces the fish's ability to feed and breath because it no longer has a fully enclosed jaw to trap water when opening its mouth to engulf food or get water to pass over its gills. It's like a bellows with a rip in it, it doesn't work properly.
Wow, that's awful. I don't know anybody that does it that way. If that were common practice here, I'd be against it too.
There's no way you can tell if there's no lasting harm done unless you go underwater and monitor those fish for the next month. They do suffer stress and do suffer from physical injuries caused by the hooks, regardless of if it is barbless or barbed and takes out a piece of flesh.

Unless Fish & Game (in the US) or equivalent departments (Department of Fisheries in Western Australia) have actually studied fish that have been caught, they can say what they want but have no proof. They are bureaucrats that shuffle papers and most haven't got a clue about fish or fish behaviour. I have been up against the Department of Fisheries here and had discussions about all sorts of fish related topics including bag limits and minimum sizes for fish. They really don't have a clue. Same issue with AQIS (Australian Quarantine Inspection Services), they don't have a clue either. Whilst there might be some people in the US Department of Fish & Game that go fishing and know a bit about fish, I highly doubt any of them have ever studied fish before and after the fish were caught and released. I have, and the fish suffer stress and physical damage.

Government departments are designed to enforce laws and collect money, and only have the animal's welfare in mind when it hits the news. If they really cared they would ban hooks with barbs. That would help. They would promote sensible ways to euthanise a fish instead of breaking its neck (usually done by snapping the gills and throat) or leaving it in a bucket of air. They would have people monitoring fishing spots and say you can't have 200 undersized live fish in a bucket without water. Yes I have seen that and people have pulled knives on me because I suggested they didn't keep so many undersized fish. Whilst you might follow the laws and try to take care of the fish you catch, not everyone does and there is nobody policing that in most areas.
Wow, that's pretty cynical, Colin. Maybe that's how it is where you live, but it's always a mistake to assume your experience is universal. Where I live, there are actual fisheries biologists, game wardens, and other professionals who do indeed spend a lot of time in the field and the lab, study fish before and after they are caught, monitor mortality rates in heavily fished waters, and so on. Most of them are avid fishermen, hunters, and outdoors people themselves; they do really know fish, care about them and their habitat, and enjoy working with them.

As for "nobody policing," fly fishermen tend to police each other, sometimes to an annoying degree. :) There are some slobs out there, but most of us understand that if the fish don't survive, there will be no fish. Simple as that. It's motivation to do things right.

The results of all this speak for themselves: In spite of a large amount of catch-and-release in this region, overall fish populations and health remain excellent.

These observations are based on my experiences. Your experiences appear to be much different. So be it.
 

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