How ethical is "catch and release" mentality?

Discussion in 'Fly Fishing Forum' started by wbugger, Sep 24, 2002.

  1. SteveD New Member

    Posts: 9
    Huntington Beach, California, USA.
    Ratings: +0 / 0
    Thought a topic like this might be a good opportunity to look at others views and put forward our own thoughts. The problem is we can't see that anyone else's ideas have any value only that they are wrong. Not that I don't do the same thing on strongly held views :HAPPY

    From my own perspective, I think the "ethical" question has been introduced due to the feel good effect of releasing a fish (and media manipulation). Nothing wrong with that if it helps you enjoy the experience _ go for it.

    But the reality is that catch and release is a management technique nothing more nothing less. As such the benefits to the waterway are dependant on the individual conditions in and on that waterway.
    Introducing the idea that c&r was more ethical (superior?) to killing was a boon for the industry in the explosion of fly fishing numbers, particularly on the more heavily fished waters.

    But in reference to those talking about releasing fish so you can grow hogs _ in many waters nothing could be further from the truth.

    Fish don't keep growing year after year until they die. Actual fish size is dependant on a variety of factors including water temps, fish population, food availability and so on. A one year old fish from one water with perfect growth conditions could be 10 times as large as as a two year old fish from another. Think about those football rainbows many see as fantastic, that shape comes from eating lots fast and not having to work hard to get it.

    In my home waters in Tasmania there are plenty of lakes with so much spawning that even though they are rich with food, the fish have become stunted. There simply isn't the predator,fisher environmental mortality to let them grow to a natural size (remember trout are naturally relatively small. One of these lakes, through a set of circumstances a few years back became the number one destination _ the fish size has increased as the pressure increased _ This is a lake with a bag limit of 15 fish a day. The system remains in balance just the average fish size has gone from about a pound and a half to probably 2-3 pounds. I'll commit a heresy here and say that the fish in the Paradise Valley spring creeks are in danger of becoming stunted as well as c&r and the presence of fishers keeping off natural predators like cormorants is boosting numbers too high for even their abundant food levels

    Now I have no problems with anyone either practising c &r or eating fish _ dependant on the individual water _ but I would like to see people understanding the reasons behind either of their choices.

    The primary threat to waters is the availability of water from competing interests (ie agriculture, fishing etc), pollution catchment logging etc as well as direct fishing pressure.

    We need people to understand and connect to really what does go on in our waters, others to study them and understand the interconnections, so we can maintain our precious resources against all threats.

    Sorry its so long a post

    Cheers all and good fishing, however you want to do it

  2. Scott Whited Member

    Posts: 131
    West Seattle
    Ratings: +2 / 0
    i have certainly questioned the ethics behind what i like to do most......allright second most. if we felt the same relative pull on our own lip as a fish does every time we hooked up none of us would fish. ( oh i'm sure there is some sadistic bastard out there who would.) anyway, i have definatly wondered how ethical it is for my fun to be had at the expense of a fish's trauma. i really don't have the answer. that doesn't change the fact that i love to fish, ( am obsessed with it) , and will continue to fish as much as i can, for as long as i can. luckily flyfishermen tend to be the best stewards for the resource, and i hope that more than makes up for any damage done while we are fishing. because, man, without fishing i would sure watch a hell of lot more tv, and be a lot less in touch with nature. scott
  3. Greg Member

    Posts: 316
    Gig Harbor, WA, U.S.A.
    Ratings: +13 / 0
    How ethical is


    Ethics is very subjective topic open to much debate; philosophers have argued ethics back to the ancient Greeks. Ethics are, generally speaking, a set of principles pertaining to right and wrong conduct. Whether something is ethical or not depends entirely upon one?s own point of view and motives (personal ethics) or that of a collective body (accepted practice, rules of conduct and even laws of society.) One of the best descriptions of Ethics states: "...ethics are values relating to human conduct with respect to the rightness and wrongness of actions AND the goodness and badness of MOTIVES and ENDS..."

    Whether an angler chooses to practice C&R or C&K is a reflection of their personal ethics. Angling ethics are a set of principles of behavior practiced by recreational anglers (collective body.) In 1999, the National Marine Fisheries Service adopted a "Code of Angling Ethics" for the recreational angler Those principles state the Ethical Angler:

    ·Promotes, through education and practice, ethical behavior in the use of aquatic resources.
    ·Values and respects the aquatic environment and all living things in it.
    ·Avoids spilling, and never dumps, any pollutants, such as gasoline and oil, into the aquatic environment.
    ·Disposes of all trash, including worn-out lines, leaders, and hooks, in appropriate containers, and helps to keep fishing sites litter-free.
    ·Takes all precautionary measures necessary to prevent the spread of exotic plants and animals, including live baitfish, into non-native habitats.
    ·Learns and obeys angling and boating regulations, and treats other anglers, boaters, and property owners with courtesy and respect.
    ·Respects property rights, and never trespasses on private lands or waters.
    ·Keeps no more fish than needed for consumption, and never wastefully discards fish that are retained.
    ·Practices conservation by carefully handling and releasing alive all fish that are unwanted or prohibited by regulation, as well as other animals that may become hooked or entangled accidentally.
    ·Uses tackle and techniques which minimize harm to fish when engaging in "catch and release" angling.

    Lets assume a person whose ethics found C&R a violation of their moral principles and who strictly practiced C&K was to fish a river and catch an out-of-season or undersized species. Would that person keep the fish based on their principles of C&K? Or, since they participate in an activity with a larger collective body (the angling community and societal) release that fish, thus abiding by the generally accepted rules of conduct (fishing regs)? Would they be violating their own code of personal morals or ethics by releasing that fish? Ethical behavior sometimes reflects the morals of a larger, collective group over those of the individual.

    The purpose of angling is to catch a fish. Retention or release is an after-the-fact activity. If one were to find C&R a violation of their personal ethics, could they then argue C&K places them on higher moral ground? I suspect that if the fish had the capacity to make a choice, it would probably choose C&R every time. For those psychologically torn over this issue and who find the need to continually debate it, I hear golfers don't experience this dilemna; it may be a sport to consider pursuing in lieu of angling. is a website whose purpose is to bring fly anglers together as a community interacting in a positive manner. I believe nearly everyone in this community subscribes to the principles in the Code of Angling Ethics described by NMFS above. Whether one chooses C&R over C&K remains a personal decision. To question or challenge the ethics of one over the other is simply attacking an individual.

    I hope this helps satisfy your curiosity.

  4. Chris Scoones Administrator

    Posts: 3,580
    North Bend
    Ratings: +295 / 0

    I had a bad feeling about the subject and how it would be responded to. As the members continue to take the high road in responding to your question, I can only say that moving forward I'll take it into account.

    Bad moderator, bad. :HAPPY

  5. Fly For Fun New Member

    Posts: 61
    Issaquah, Washington, US.
    Ratings: +0 / 0
    How ethical is

    Amazing, that thus far almost EVERY response on this thread has supported Chris' in his first response on this thread. This 'mentality' that was questioned may be a good question, hinging on personal moral and ethical beliefs, but it all comes down to what chris said.

    What kind of response was expected from a well rounded fly fishing forum such as this? I read the first posts last night and could already tell what all the following responses would entail. Seems that all of us here repsect the question but would most definitely argue for C&R until we are blue in the face. For those who don't, thats fine, to each his own. But of course most of these responses would be for C&R and many see the question as antagonistic. Oh well, we are all friends here :THUMBSUP .

    PS--I still enjoyed reading most of the posts, keep it up everyone.

    PPS--Hopefully i will be back on later tonight to post some reports, thanks, tight lines :COOK

    Fly For Fun
  6. mtp1032 New Member

    Posts: 51
    Sammamish, WA, US.
    Ratings: +0 / 0
    C&R is not a personal decision. Laws exist that mandate C&R. Should you decide to C&K on water mandated to be C&R, you will be breaking the law.

    C&R is neither ethical or unethical. However, C&R is an inarguably successful strategy for increasing the numbers and size of fish in a fishery. Of course, this only applies to fisheries depleted by over fishing.


    Remember, Son. Catch, Gloat, then Release.
  7. o mykiss Active Member

    Posts: 1,299
    Ratings: +173 / 0
    How ethical is

    Except where, as Greg points out, regulations mandate catch & release, to C & R or not to C & R is strictly a personal choice and I sort of wish all the people who sermonize about 100% C & R being the only ethical thing to do would back off. (If killing a fish you've caught is always ethically wrong, then so is killing a grouse, or pheasant or deer. All the hunters on this board would flip at such an ethical argument.) I have heard of (but not witnessed) some "true believers" who have gone to fishing for steelhead using only dry flies with the hook bend and point removed, solely for the challenge of rising a steelhead to a dry fly without any possible risk to the fish. In other words, these folks go so far as to eliminate "catch" from the equation. Those who insist strict C & R is the only ethical approach to angling may one day be on the butt end of an argument from the "hookless" anglers that what the C & R anglers are doing is unethical (this is, after all, PETA's position on C & R). Having said all that, I do wish the fish & game people (particularly in this state) would, when considering whether to allow harvest or mandate C & R on a particular fishery, give the fish the benefit of the doubt when that fishery is under threat. That would end the debate on the personal ethics of the issue.
  8. Bob Triggs Your Preferred Olympic Peninsula Fly Fishing Guide

    Posts: 3,956
    Olympic Peninsula
    Ratings: +625 / 0
    Dear Mr Booger,
    1) "Catch & Release" is descriptive of a sequence of events. Catch and kill is also a description of a sequence of events.
    "Catch and Catch" would be oxymoronic.
    2) There might be a variety of "purposes" for C&R, depending on who is doing it. My decision to release fish, especially wild fish, is based on the experience of seeing a number of fisheries in America get destroyed,or nearly so, in my lifetime. No matter what the cause of the damage to the fisheries, my only impact on it can be to do less harm.So I release fish with that in mind; that maybe I am having a more beneficial impact on the future of the species by attempting to release them without avoidable injury.
    3) As for ethics, if you really stretch it we could say we shouldn't fish at all if we care so much about the fish. But I do fish, not quite so agressively as some, or as much as I used to, and I enjoy it immensely. I try to do as little harm as I can in doing it, and I have chosen to release fish. Im not so sure how the ethics question works out because it's rhetorical and leaves allot of room for interpretation.Circumstances- allot would depend on that. Generally speaking, in my own personal opinion, the less harm you do the more ethical you are. At least you are trying.
    4)What the hell is everyone so upset about, at least it's got us thinking about it!
  9. Scott Rethke New Member

    Posts: 103
    Ratings: +0 / 0
    Definitely a loaded topic to discuss...........

    I tend to think that catching and releasing allows me to catch the same fish at a future time. Better yet, when somebody else releases a fish and I catch it after them.

    If you look at the blue-ribbon waters in WA many have catch and release regs.
  10. wbugger Member

    Posts: 91
    Ratings: +0 / 0
    Kudos to everyone who has responded to this post. I truly am sorry if it ruffled any feathers.

    I guess I just realized how much of a pompous ass I was becoming on the whole c&r topic. (I am an avid c&r proponent) I have friends whom I fish with who keep their catch, legally of course, and this topic has come up several times. (with very little punches thrown suprisingly)

    I truly asked these questions to get open, honest feedback. I was not trying to push any agenda or bait anyone into a deep, philosophical argument which, in my experience, tends to leave both sides going "Huh?"

    Thanks again to everyone for keeping the discussion on the high ground.

    God bless.
  11. MacRowdy Idaho Resident Craftsman/Artisan

    Posts: 1,127
    Ashton, Idaho
    Ratings: +0 / 0
    WORD wbugger,

    Well put.

  12. Roper Idiot Savant

    Posts: 4,282
    Glenraven Ranch
    Ratings: +770 / 1

    "the discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation"

    That's according to Merriam-Webster.

    This is according to Roper:
    Fishing is good, be it fly or bait. It's a decent way to spend time in nature and remember the earth is our "mother". It is here to sustain us during our time here. In times past, we had to kill fish to survive. We don't have to do that any more, obviously. But fishing, like hunting is a part of our past, our culture. Unfortunately, our culture has also failed to change in time and our fisheries have suffered. We plundered it for the profit of a few, be it loggers, or gill netters, etc.
    It is our moral duty and obligation to preserve our remaining fisheries, if not improve them. We can practice our "tradition" with one subtle, important difference. We should endeavor to release as many fish back into the waters as possible. Take only those we really need to eat, and never waste them. They are a precious gift, and gifts should be shared will all.
  13. fishnfella New Member

    Posts: 148
    Grand Coulee, Washington, USA.
    Ratings: +0 / 0

    Fish till ya drop.
    Then suck it up
    and fish the evening hatch.

    Now that this topic has been beat to death I must say that every aspect of pro and con has been stated except one.

    For the uninformed, be it known that were it not for fishermens efforts and liscense monies there would be no fish at all in most Washington lakes. They were barren and lacking spawning for trout most would be barren again within a few years except for the spiney rays, which were also introduced into Washington waters BY FISHERMEN.

    It seems to me to be rather stupid to interject ethical issues into fishing. Is it any more or less ethical to fish than to raise a beef,or turkey,or any other farm animal then kill and eat it. I think not.

    Humans are carnivors by nature. That is NOT an ethical issue. We are what we are like the lion is the lion:no one criticizes him for killing and eating the gazelle.
  14. Jay Burman Experienced Ne'r do well and Layabout.

    Posts: 305
    Snoqualmie, WA, USA.
    Ratings: +11 / 0
    It's not a matter of ethics. It's a matter of trying to preserve our fishing. I'm sure some fish die anyway but waters that are catch and release always offer better fishing than catch & kill waters. Any of the fresh water "catch & Kill" trout fisheries, in Washington at least, offer rather poor fishing within a few weeks of the season opening. If you like to fish all season as I do, "catch and release" is the only way sustain fishing all season.
    I don't see what ethics have to do with anything unless you are an animal rights advocate.
  15. fishnfella New Member

    Posts: 148
    Grand Coulee, Washington, USA.
    Ratings: +0 / 0
    Fish till ya drop.
    Then suck it up
    and fish the evening hatch.

    Right you are, I'm well aware of the differences between the fishing in C&R waters and Powerbait Lake. I fried our Dept. of F&G this spring on another site for pandering to the powerbaiters while our C&R waters become so overcrowded that it's a Chinese Circus at times. We NEED more C&R waters. Let them crowd the Powerbaiters into fewer and fewer lakes...most of them fish for a social event anyhow.

    My point was mainly that the animal rights advocates like the PETAS have their heads on backwards when they advocate it being immmoral to kill and eat animals and fish.
    I suspect most of them are Vegetable Farmers looking to increase their business. He,he,he!