You’re probably wondering why I am writing on such a topic, when there are literally hundreds of more appealing things to write about. I feel the need to express the importance of conservation and catch and release. I take a lot of friends and family out on my boat because I enjoy watching others catch fish. The mere joy that one has when they hook up with their largest redfish or snook is personally gratifying. I focus on catch and release. Honestly, 80% of the time, I release all fish if it’s just me fishing. Typically the ones I do harvest are for family and friends. Please don’t misunderstand me, I do enjoy a tasty redfish/grouper sandwich every now and then but I would prefer to release them to be caught another day. What I find to be alarming is the reaction from people when the fish limit has been reached and we start releasing fish. Their actions make me question what they would do if I wasn’t there. This has me wondering about the thousands of other recreational fisherman. I know I’m not one to judge ones morale behavior but if the laws weren’t in place we would probably have a true crisis with many of our popular native game species. For instance, one of my favorite inshore species is the redfish. They grow at a fairly slow rate, reaching and estimated 24 inches in 3 years.
They too were quickly diminishing in population at one time but thanks to the regulations and all of the new hatchery programs, the fishery has been on a steady incline. When you have a couple bags of fish in the freezer, start practicing catch and release. Astonishingly I find that it’s more of a psychological issue after the catch, and then it’s the angler having an appetite. Many want to catch and kill the fish to make sure they can get a picture or show off their catch as a trophy, having no regard to the life that they took. Releasing fish not only shows compassion for what you love as a recreational sport but also allows the fish to perpetuate and grow in numbers. Make sure you focus on your tackle, use circle hooks to prevent gut hooking, try and avoid long battles in the heat of the summer to limit stress on the fish. Make sure you aren’t throwing your trash in the water; we are always retrieving trash from the bay. Not too long ago, I idled over to a floating object to remove it and it happened to be a baby sea turtle entangled in a piece of an old cast net. We all have a responsibility to protect and conserve, so that generations to come can enjoy our pristine aquatic eco-system.