Today’s lakes are constantly being bombarded by anglers with the latest gear and the highest of technologies; it’s a wonder that we still have fish in our water. There is one big contributing factor to why our fish numbers are still strong, that factor is the adoption of the “Catch and Release” mentality.
For those that do not know, Catch and Release is the practice of catching a game species, relishing the moment, then releasing the fish back into the water. The idea of catch and release can go back to coarse anglers in the United Kingdom nearly a century ago; they began this because of the abundant amount of anglers and having fisheries that do not sustain high numbers of fish. In the United States the idea first really stuck in 1952 in Michigan to reduce the cost of stocking hatchery-raised trout. Utilizing the catch and release practice for this reason is an obvious one, but there are other reasons that many angler don’t often think about.
When we as anglers are hunting for the elusive trophy fish we rarely stop to think about what it took for that trophy fish to get to that size. Up here in the north for example we always see anglers out on the water fishing for that giant 42″ pike. In order for the pike to reach that size it must first live to be nearly 10 years old, have the genetics, and have the food source there. Perhaps the most common fish casual anglers are after is the Black Crappie. For years we have always heard that it is nearly impossible to overfish this species, but that is completely false, not to mention that anybody who catches a 12″ crappie is ecstatic! More often than not that 5 year old fish will be thrown into the livewell and eaten for dinner.
Now, onto our favorite species, black bass. When it comes to largemouth there really isn’t a set age and length notion, but down in Alabama some people do have a fairly good idea. During out time down there many anglers were kind of disappointed when they boated a 17″ largie that went nearly 3lbs, but that fish should be around 5 years old. Up here in the north not only do bass have to deal with fishing pressure they also have to cope with those 42″ northerns competing for the same food source AND trying to eat them. That kind of competition means that a 5lb largie could be as young as 6 years or as old as 16.
Here at Bad Poncho Outdoors you often see us posting lake reports where we catch numerous fish, already this year we have caught roughly 200 fish, and those are only the ones that are noteworthy. If we kept every keeper bass or even just kept our limit of fish throughout the season we could utterly destroy a resource, and that is just one boat. Here in Michigan our 1,000 acre lakes often see 200 fishing boats on the weekend, most of which have two anglers on the boat, that’s a lot of fish to be taking out of the water, especially if they are having the same luck as us!
We do have some exceptions to our personal rule, those being: invasive species and panfish. When it comes to species like carp more often than not we practice a catch and kill because they can be more harmful to body of water than fishing pressure. We ran an article about a month back noting the harm that carp can do to a resource, that information alone was more than enough to start with that exception to our rule. The second exception is there because well, if we take panfish out of the water then there is more potential for larger panfish to take their place. This comes from the idea that there will be less fish competing for the same food source, makes sense right?
Do your part into protecting the resource for future generations and fellow anglers, being able to share that experience with others is what it’s all about in the end, at least for us it is! Be sure to practice catch and release on those monster bass, goliath northerns, or whatever else it may be that you are after, keeping those genes in the gene pool can help to produce bigger fish for everybody in the long run.