Now, it has become so entwined with fly-fishing that it is probably more important to practice Catch and Release than it is to perfect your back cast. But, are we doing so with a blind eye towards conservation, in the name of conservation?
Imagine, for a moment, a stream that was teeming with Cutthroats, your favorite subspecies. Every cast ends with you reeling in another monster Cuttie. It’s your favorite stream and place to fish. However, the local Wildlife Management Department (WMD) decides that they’re going to introduce Brown Trout to the ecosystem, to encourage more fishing, i.e., more revenue. Now you notice that you’re not catching as many Cutthroats and more and more Browns, to point where you haven’t seen a Cutthroat the last few times you've gone fishing. Finally the WMD realizes what they've done and is now trying to bring back the Cutthroat population by stalking the stream with native Cutthroats. But, you're still releasing the Browns, which have taken over the ecosystem, back into the stream. By not taking the Brown Trout that you''ve caught, you are, by default, thwarting the conservation efforts of the Cutthroats in that local stream.
What about a stream that has enough nutrients to sustain a strong population of 1,000 fish but the stream has a population of 1,500 fish. The State DWR has requested that fishermen keep fish within a certain size limit so that the population decreases and actually becomes a stronger population. However, you're going to practice catch and release. In the best circumstance, you have just relegated the stream to mediocre fishing with fish that will be stunted and weak, in the worst circumstance you have contributed to the bust cycle of that fishery and it will be years even before it becomes the mediocre fishery that you hoped that you were returning the fish to.
A quote from Utah Division of Wildlife Resources states:
"You may not realize it," Cushing says, "but catching and releasing fish — on waters where you're allowed to keep some fish — is working against you. Until anglers start keeping some fish, the fish aren't going to grow to the size that many anglers want. Many of Utah's waters simply have too many fish."
Sometimes we need to look passed the current fad, we need to actually look and think at what we're doing and why we're doing it. Are we practicing catch and release because that's what we’re suppose to do, or are we practicing catch and release because we actually care about conservation? If it's the latter, think about what you're actually conserving and the reason you're releasing every fish back into the water. If it's the former, get back to the river and get over yourself.
Now, don't get your knickers in a twist, we practice catch and release. But, at the same time, we are more than happy to bring a limit home to enjoy.
As always, Good Luck and Guid Luck!
Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. (August 29th, 2014). Encouraging Anglers to Keep Fish. Retrieved from http://wildlife.utah.gov/wildlife-news/1486-encouraging-anglers-to-keep-fish.html