Catch & Release or Catch & Kill?

As you might know, Norway is a land of trolls and conservative fly fishers. We’ve had a debate going on for some time now, a debate that rises anger and not so nice comments, about whether catch & release is a way to torment the fish or not. Some even say; if you catch it – kill it! They probably have their freezers full of trout and salmon.

Two dead fish

I’ve fished in other countries from time to time, and always experienced a C&R policy. You may take a fish to eat for dinner, but apart from that: give it a kiss and put it back gently. I kind of gotten used to this and find it good to take care of the lakes and rivers so that they house a good stock of nice fish. That the fish are getting educated over time is to me an advantage, it makes it a bit more difficult and you have to up your skills. As long as you fish hooks without a barb, my opinion is that this doesn’t hurt the fish more than a tiny sting from a needle. Fishing with barbless hooks also makes the game more fun. This may however be an excuse to get more fun for myself.

Last summer I caught a 3 pound brown trout, and without even thinking about it I put it right back into the river. When I got home my wife wondered why, and to tell you the truth, she wasn’t very happy. Some of my fishing buddies are of the same opinion. Catch and Kill is to them the only way to handle fish. Is this just because they are trolls and conservative and never have tried out C&R, or is it an attitude we have to deal with? If I try to discuss this, the temperature rises rapidly and the arguments get more and more dumb, maybe we have to live with the fact that we think and feel different about this, but it sure is a hot theme. The only sane argument against C&R comes from a friend of mine who’s not a fly fisher but a vet. He can talk for hours about the fish and its nervous system and is convinced that the fish suffers. Maybe he’s right, but in my experience I can catch the same fish several times and it’s still a good fight. The fish seems to be stupid then?

Fly fisherman releasing his catch

I don’t believe in stupid fish. Actually I don’t believe in fish with a brain at all. I believe in fish with senses like smell, eyesight and feeling vibrations and air pressure. Do they feel pain? I recon they do, but the small sting from a hook is probably not so painful. Even so, one should try to be quick to haul in the fish and not drag out the time this takes. I would have been pretty stressed out being on a hook in the end of a tight line for half an hour, and so would you probably. Fast and gentle are key words practicing C&R.

In social media this discussion is also very hot, but in some rivers here in Norway they have introduced bag limits and thereby a C&R policy. These rivers, close to people and good roads, also tend to hold the best stock of good fish and are the rivers that cost the most to fish in. So how about you guys and gals over there? How do you feel about this, and how do you convince your fellow fly anglers, if you are convinced, that C&R are the right way to do what we all love – fly fishing?

The fish would guaranteed prefer this catch, but I doubt any of you guys have tried this!

Fly fisherman casting into a tree