You should release every fish you catch. Be a sport.

That’s what a fishing guide friend of mine preaches.

He says we should let all recreational fish go, and then buy any fish we want to eat.

With all due respect to his good intentions, I say that’s baloney. Or fishsticks!

I say as much on a conservation segment of our FS television show.

Frankly, we think some anglers get carried away with the catch-and-release ethic.

The all-release policy may seem good at first glance, but think about it.

A rigid release-everything dogma could play right into the hands of certain extremists. Here’s what they sometimes ask:

“Well, if you don’t even eat the fish, why do you torture them?”

In other words, they can understand us eating some, because they do, too. But they question the recreational catching.

We actually have a stronger position by keeping and enjoying some of the fish.

At any rate, it’s a complicated philosophical thing.

Personal motives can play a role as well. Some boat captains who discourage all keeping of fish don’t mind getting out of cleaning the fish. And they may want to leave fish in a particular honey hole for their next customer’s trip. Plus, a few don’t eat fish and see no reason for others to eat them either.

But most guides aren’t fanatical about it and are happy to see modest numbers go into the cooler.

Otherwise, it’s good that fewer anglers these days are die-hard “fish hogs,” the guys who keep most everything.

On the other hand, excessive releasing can be a problem, too. We shouldn’t get too caught up in the numbers game, as in the proud statement, “I released 29 snook today.” If three of those die from release mortality, you’ve nearly tripled your limit in effect.

If you find fish schooled tightly and taking every cast, we urge you to catch two or three and then move on to find some semblance of a challenge.

These are tough ethical questions and give us plenty to think about.

My dad had a key word of advice for this type of situation:


On the release vs. keep question, I’d say that means kill but don’t overkill.

Meantime, I’m keeping the grill handy.

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