If you didn’t already know, I am a catch and release only angler. Lots of people especially around Texas go fishing in order to catch fish to eat, but it’s not about that for me. This is not to say that I disagree with eating fish- I just don’t do it for that reason. The reason I fly fish is not for the food opportunities, but for the sport.
In all of my years of fly fishing, I have never kept a single fish for eating. My first day fly fishing, I adopted the practice of catch and release and have stuck with it since. Growing up using a spinning rod and worms, I would catch catfish and have catfish dinners with my family. I really had a lot of fun doing this! I would skin the catfish with my dad even. But the day I caught my first fish on a fly rod changed how I felt about the fish that I catch. The practice of catch and release has turned me into the conservationist that I am today.
The reasons I catch and release my fish vary. One reason I practice catch and release is because I want to watch my fish grow. I don’t fish in many places that are very popular to other anglers, so if I catch a fish and put it back, chances are I will most likely be able to catch that same fish again knowing that nobody else has taken it home with them. I get to watch that fish grow in size over time and to me, that is worthy.
I feel like if I were to fish in really popular fishing spots, if I catch a fish, I may not ever see that fish again after I let it go. Being from Texas, we have a lot of fisherman that like to keep every fish that gets brought in. One day while fishing in a spot with a few other anglers, I saw a man and his two boys keep 48 fish. the limit for that body of water was 5 per person, and so that would equal 15 fish total. I saw them leave with 48 fish between the three of them, and I’ll never forget that day. I work so hard to catch every fish that I bring in, and so that experience really got to me but releasing every fish that I catch helps me to feel a bit better about the situation.
Another reason I practice catch and release is to maintain a healthy fishery. Being from Texas, I don’t know many other anglers who strictly practice catch and release, so I know that fish are constantly being taken from our rivers and lakes, diminishing the population. When I return my fish back to their home, I am assuring that the fishery is being maintained by at least myself. I know that may sound like it is nothing, but knowing that I return each and every fish back into the water helps me to feel better about the health of the fishery. Travelling frequently to the western states has allowed me to note the conservation that takes place in the western rivers and lakes. I notice that over there, the majority of anglers I come in contact with practice catch and release. These anglers are almost always fly anglers, and so I feel like that may have something to do with it. I applaud the western anglers immensely for their practice of catch and release. I really enjoy travelling west to be surrounded by other conservationists.
I would like to urge everyone to practice catch and release while fishing at least a little bit. I do not mean to say that you should never keep a fish to eat, but if you are not sure whether or not that fish will get eaten by yourself or your family, putting it back in the water will do no harm.