How ethical is "catch and release" mentality?

Sorry wbugger

Thought this was going in another direction. It is an individual and personal decision. That moment after the hook is gone and your just gently holding it in the water. Looking for life, hoping you didn't work him too hard. Then a couple tail thrust to signal he's OK. Then comes that split second when you open your hands and he swims away. A very personal decision knowing you just released a survivor.

I catch and release the fish I catch so the fishery will continue to get better. Look at rocky ford creek if that was open to keep trout and fish with bait there would be no fish left and they would not get as big. Even if there is a slight mortality rate among released fish, If I release all my fish say 90% survive well thats a hell of a lot better than killing all the fish I catch and having 0% survive.If you look at the put and take lakes over here on the west side of the mountains they are shot by june because most everybody keeps all the fish they catch out of those lakes, but if you look at say pass lake you can catch trout there year around because the fish are caught and released.I don't have a problem with someone that keeps a fish here and there but I choose to C&R to maintain and improve the fishery.As for C&R being ethical I think it is. Just my opinion. fly15

Thanks for asking the question which may prompt more folks to examine why they do what they do.
Let's look at the starting point here. Catch and release is a subset of fishing. Release only occurs in the case of catch. Catch only occurs in the case of fishing. If it was only about catching, the game would be called catching, not fishing.
I fish because of all the elements that blend into the experience. I love the sunny days, wading a mountain stream, busting through brush. I love spending time with my brother, watching him get more out of a single cast on a stream than any other person. I love the feel of the water on my skin. I love the cold weather, being on the only person on a desert lake in November. Yes, I even loved wet wading Lenice in November when is used to be open that late. I love the discovery of a new, at least to me, spot. I love the colors of spring but even better are the colors of fall-there is an almost palpable sense of urgency in the air.
I've fished in lightening/hail storms and laughed outloud at the absurdity of that scene as viewed by others. I've fished in rainstorms that breached the best goretex. I've dryfly fished in mountain snowstorms at 10,000 feet. I've hiked into places where I had to carry my flyrod in my teeth so I could maintain four points of contact with the rock.
Could I have had all these experiences without fishing? I suppose so but it would seem a bit silly to spend hours in a float tube without a rod in my hand.
Since 1979, I have knowingly killed 9 fish (3 salmon, 6 brook trout)and willingly released all others. I do not consider my releasing fish more ethical than those who don't. I just think it makes more sense. Releasing fish, while obviously impacting the individual fish, makes a mimimum inpact on the resource.


Active Member
ASTOUNDING!!!!! I dont think anyone could have explained it any better. That should end this thread. :LOVEIT :THUMBSUP

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

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
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.


Chris Scoones

Staff member

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

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
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.

o mykiss

Active Member
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.

Bob Triggs

Stop Killing Wild Steelhead!
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!
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.
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.