Being a better angler means different things to different people. For some it means being an expert at your fishing style. It could mean having a lot of experience, knowing a lot about fish species, or being able to fish in any weather and environment. But have you thought about how “better” could mean “more responsible?” What does being a responsible angler even mean?
In general, being a responsible angler means taking care of the fish and the water they live in. It means taking steps to lessen the harm we do to the environment so that future generations may still enjoy the sport.
We all know (and love) the benefits of fishing. It’s a great way to relax, to connect with nature, and to bond with friends and family. But fishing does have negative effects on the environment, like pollution, overfishing, or ruined ecosystems because of destructive fishing practices. If we’re not careful, these negative effects may one day make fishing impossible.
Here are some tips to consider if you want to be a more responsible angler.
1. Take only what you need.
Just because there are plenty of fish doesn’t mean you have to catch them all. Taking only what you need ensures you leave enough fish in the water to grow, breed, and keep the fish population at a healthy level.
2. Release protected species.
In case you catch fish that’s a protected species, make sure to return it to the water. This list of threatened and endangered fish and sharks from NOAA has the details on protected species, including photos and regions they’re commonly found in.
3. Dispose of trash properly.
Clean up after yourself and don’t throw anything in the water, including old fishing lines, lure packs, and bottles. We’re sure you don’t need any reminder that they cause pollution and harm wildlife.
4. Learn and follow the rules.
Fishing regulations help to protect not just fish, but also the environment. Many permits and licenses, in fact, say that you can only catch fish that are a certain size or a certain number of fish. Many of them also do not allow fishing in protected areas.
5. Handle your catch properly.
There are ways of handling fish properly that doesn’t add too much to their stress or injury. Take care not to squeeze too hard, provide enough support, handle them with wet hands or gloves, and remove the hook quickly but steadily. If you’re releasing the fish, make sure to do it in calm water.
6. Consider eco-friendly gear.
Some traditional fishing gear contain toxic materials such as lead or plastic that can poison or hurt wildlife. The good news is that today, you don’t have to stick to these toxic gear as there are so many eco-friendly options on the market.
Being a responsible angler doesn’t have to be complicated. It’s all part of the mindset of being better and doing better. As these tips show, a few simple steps can go a long way in reducing our harm to the planet and ensuring that future generations can still enjoy fishing.