Orvis Fly Fishing
Should I Catch And Release Non Native Fish?
There are some situations in fly fishing where questions about our own ethics as anglers are brought up. One of the most important questions that you could come across is in regards to catch and release fishing. Catch and Release (C&R) Fishing is conservation themed angling wherein all fish,after being hooked and played, are subsequently released back into the water.
The data that supports the practice of C&R fishing is there, and many states have regulations that require the immediate release of especially sensitive fish. C&R flat out works in helping to preserve fish populations in the long term and, at this point in the history of fly fishing, is by far the most common practice. The old adage that says, "limit your kill, don't kill your limit," certainly holds true and firm in regards to making sure that there are viable populations of fish in the water.
How to perform Catch and Release
These are the basic and somewhat intuitive steps to hook, handle, and release fish to ensure that you have done everything possible so that they swim away unharmed.
Non-Native Fish you say?
Species of bass thrive in many locations throughout the globe where they are not native. Much like the rest of the landscape, man has transmitted organisms and animals, both good and bad, to new locations either by accident or intentionally. Largemouth and smallmouth bass are prolific across the United States and provide countless angling opportunities to many locations that lack cold water game fish.
However, bass also thrive in cold water fisheries where Salmonids may be native or prevalent. It's not all that uncommon for viable bass fisheries to exist in the same places where trout fishing takes place. It's also very important to remember that many species of trout are not native to the waters in which they are currently found.
So with this said, from the perspective of non-native fish, most of the fish we catch aren't truly native to the stream we catch them in. There are numerous exceptions to this rule where native populations of fish still inhabit their historic locations and thrive like time immemorial:
What does it all mean?
What this all means is that finding a bass swimming in a place we don't expect or even hope to catch them, is no different than catching a salmonid that shouldn't be there either. What it comes down to is angler perception, and the fact of the matter still is, some Trout anglers frown upon bass being in those waters as well. Even if the trout they also catch aren't native.
Most fish, and bass specifically, lay thousands of eggs when spawning. Killing the one or two fish you catch is not an effective way to eradicate an unwanted fish population. Most times, this takes lengthy study by fish biologists and then an equally lengthy fish eradication procedure that is put in place by biologists who know the complete history, life cycle and makeup of a specific body of water. Throwing a bass on shore isn't going to make a dent in the population of bass, if it's already there. It's perfectly OK to be a C&R fisherman in waters where bass aren't native. If the bass are competing with a native population of fish, in most cases it's OK to also keep a few and eat them. Always follow the law, and please practice C&R fishing whenever possible.
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