Fishing Lines: Have fun, but fish with your conscience

-A A +A
By Capt. Dennis Voyles

I am going to go out on a limb here. It is time that we all face the fact that this pond is not so big and it is not an endless resource that will allow us to just take and take. The trout are fully into the spawning mode right now and we as sportsmen need to ask ourselves some hard questions:

Are these big spawning females more important to us in a freezer or frying pan, or are they more important swimming out there with their sweethearts getting romantic and...well ...you know?

The answer is easy - these fish are better off in the drink creating more good fishing for the future. I tip my hat to some clients I had last week who put four big gator trout back, for the sake of the fishery. And they are not even from our state! These four fish were so heavy with spawn that they were about to burst. We saved millions of roe that day by carefully releasing these precious females.

Sure you can make up a dozen excuses like, "I don't go every day, so keeping a few females won't hurt," but that is bunk. The resource is under heavy pressure - just stand at the boat ramp from six till eight on a Saturday - and it is all of our responsibility to conserve.

In a perfect world, the season should be closed for the month of April around here to allow the spawn to go on uninterrupted. But that is not happening. The spawn also makes them more vulnerable, due to the fact that this event requires more energy so they need to consume more. We need to retrain our thinking to the fact that catch and release is better for the resource than keeping our "limit."

If the "keeping our limit" mentality continues, then sure 'nuff the limit will need to be lowered. Just look to the south of us and the limit is four fish rather than five. Proof positive.

This reminds me of a story. This little boy was walking along the beach after a bad storm. The beach was virtually covered with starfish washed ashore by the storm, and suffocating from being out of the water. The boy was walking along throwing the starfish back into the ocean. A fellow came up to the boy and said, "son why are you bothering to throw these back? There are millions of them and you can't possibly make a difference." The boy picked up a starfish, pitched it back into the water and said to the man, "I made a difference with that one."

If we can all show a little control and put these big spawning females back, we can all make a positive difference. This resource does have its limitations, and will provide all of us with great fun...if we treat it with respect. And in a month or so when they have finished their spawn, then you can keep a few for a meal and feel good. Be like the kid, make a difference this year and teach your children conservation. Maybe it will catch on.