The fishing world is full of passionate people with strong opinions, which makes sense because we all care deeply about the sport and the waters we're lucky to enjoy. Now and again, we enjoy friendly debates on whether live bait or artificial lure is better, whether or not fishing attractants are good, or whether social media and other technologies are ruining fishing or enhancing it.
But one hot topic that frequently causes a splash is the catch and release versus catch and keep (also known as catch and consume, catch and harvest, or catch and eat) debate: two different approaches to recreational fishing.
Catch and release is a practice where a fish is caught, quickly measured, and released back into the water unharmed. In contrast, catch and keep fishing involves catching a fish and eating it, or in some cases mounting it for display.
So grab your gear and let's explore the pros and cons of both approaches. This one’s going to be a doozy.
Catch and keep / catch and consume / catch and harvest / catch and eat: pros
Let’s begin with catch and keep fishing, an approach that has been part of human history for thousands of years. Fishing, as we all know, has been a crucial source of food for civilizations across the world, and catch and keep fishing has been an integral part of this tradition. It's a way to connect with our ancestors, and keep their traditions and practices alive.
Beyond tradition, there are many other benefits to catch and keep fishing. For example, this approach can be incredibly beneficial for our mental health. The experience of being out on the water, surrounded by nature, can be a great way to relax and de-stress.
Catch and keep fishing can also help us appreciate the environment more. Many anglers say that it’s possible to be sustainable in this fishing approach, like when we catch only what we need and follow fishing regulations to ensure that fish populations remain sizable.
Lastly, let's not overlook the culinary delights that catch and keep fishing can offer. Nothing beats the taste of freshly caught fish, which is not only delicious but also a healthy source of protein.
Catch and keep / catch and consume / catch and harvest / catch and eat: cons
While catch and keep fishing has many benefits, there are also some downsides to consider. One of the biggest concerns is how it affects fish populations. As responsible anglers, it's our job to fish sustainably by only taking what we need and following the rules to make sure fish populations stay healthy.
Unfortunately, not everyone out there takes responsible fishing seriously. Some people don't follow the rules and take more than they should, leading to overfishing and harm to the environment. And then there are those who use illegal gear or aren't careful enough and end up catching the wrong types of fish. It's not just bad for the environment, but it also hurts the fishing communities that rely on sustainable fishing practices.
Another big problem is accidentally catching non-target species, also called bycatch. For example, let's say you're out fishing for tuna, but you end up catching a sea turtle by mistake. Sea turtles are a protected species, and unintentionally catching them can have serious consequences, both for the turtle and for the environment.
Minimizing environmental impact
As anglers, there are lots of things we can do to minimize our environmental impact and ensure that we're fishing sustainably. At Baitium, we’re passionate about sustainability, which is why we make it a point to use recycled water bottles in the shirts we make.
Aside from this, we urge fellow anglers to follow fishing regulations and size limits to help keep fish populations healthy. We should only take what we need and not waste any fish. After fishing, we should dispose of our gear properly to avoid harming wildlife or contributing to plastic pollution.
Of course, one option that is available to us is catch and release fishing. Not all anglers may be willing to use this approach, but it's worth considering its benefits and drawbacks.
Catch and release fishing: pros
Catch and release fishing involves releasing a caught fish back into the water unharmed. The main argument for this approach is its potential to reduce harm to fish, making it a more humane and ethical way to enjoy fishing. Allowing fish to continue living and reproducing contributes to the sustainability of fishing populations and balance of the ecosystem. This is especially important for species whose numbers are dwindling, where even a small number of individuals can make a big difference in the population’s survival.
But it’s important to understand that so much depends on the fisherman or woman practicing catch and release fishing. To quote the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, “simply letting a fish go does not guarantee it will live. The actions you take before, during, and after you land a fish can improve the chances of survival, keep fish populations healthy, and keep fishermen fishing.”
To maximize the fish’s chances of surviving, and later reproducing and contributing to the fish population, special gear and techniques are often used. Check out our post on catch and release best practices here.
Aside from this, there’s also a practical reason why catch and release is great. It provides a sense of satisfaction without the pressure of safely storing and preparing them for consumption.
Catch and release: cons
Given these points, there are some disadvantages to catch and release fishing.
One strong argument involves the improper practice of catch and release techniques. The physiological stress that fish experience after being caught and released can be so severe that they often die of shock, according to some studies.
Fish can also swallow hooks, and anglers may try to retrieve the hook by shoving their fingers or pliers down the fish’s throat, causing further injuries. When fish are handled poorly, the protective slime on their bodies can be disturbed, leaving them more vulnerable to injury once they’re returned to the water.
It’s worth remembering that catch and release fishing can still lead to the death of some fish, particularly if they are not handled properly or if they are already weak or injured.
Having said these, catch and release fishing may also not be effective in certain situations where the fish population is already in decline or facing other threats, such as habitat destruction or pollution. In these cases, catch and release may not be enough to prevent further harm to the fish population.
If you want to dive deep into studies and statistics regarding catch and release fish survival, you might want to check out this source.
The catch and release versus catch and keep debate has been a hot topic for years, and it's clear that both approaches have their pros and cons.
As responsible anglers, it's important to consider the environmental impact of our actions and to take steps to ensure that we're fishing sustainably. Whether we choose catch and release or catch and keep fishing, there are techniques and strategies that we can use to minimize harm to fish and their habitats. With the right gear, techniques, and knowledge, we can continue to enjoy fishing while preserving fish populations and the environment for future generations to enjoy.