Catch-and-release fishing

Hey all. I’ve been using iNaturalist for almost a year now but only recently have I started getting involved with the Forums. I figure this would be another good place to ask this question.

I am an avid recreational fisherman, and I practice catch-and-release 99% of the time I go out. So you can imagine I’ve had to contend with people who call me and my actions cruel and abusive to fish. They cite statistics that claim even if the fish are handled properly the trauma they have after being released causes them to starve to death (iirc the number is 1-3% mortality rate). And then there’s also the whole animal cruelty side of the argument, ethics and morals and whatnot. Which of course leads me to a quandary - am I really being respectful to nature if I have such a profound effect on the fish I catch?

Of course, these people are activists with little to no credentials in the fields of biology and ecology, but I know there are actual scientists who have decades of experience using iNaturalist, or at least people who look into these issues with actual scientific depth. I’m curious to know what the members of this community think of this issue.

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This thread might have some relevant discussion (I read some of it at the time, I’ve not re-read it):

Is it OK to catch fish with hook and line for the sake of observation?

This article is also interesting:

The Conversation: Catch me if you can! How anglers are changing the catchability of fish

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Catch and release fishing is totally fine in my opinion as long as you handle the fish properly. Some fish species are more delicate than others. Trout for example are delicate so I try to use barbless hooks and a net. Bass and panfish are more sturdy so I use barbed hooks. Fishing is a ton of fun because of the all different species you can catch and the places you go to catch them.

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I’m not a scientist, but my personal observations in 10 years of fishing is that pinching down the barb helps, but it can still be difficult to remove hooks, and sometimes the fish still thrash right when you touch the hook, seemingly in response to pain from moving the barb, which doesn’t happen with hooks that you buy barbless (these can be ordered online, most tackle shops don’t have them)

I also don’t use trebles, on crankbaits I take the trebles off and just put a single barbless hook on the front split ring (I’ve had issues with swallowed hooks when I put the hook on the rear), or wherever the treble was attached if there was only one treble to start

On lures with 3 trebles I put the single hook on the middle split ring, but having never had a fish go after a lure that size, I can’t really attest to the effectiveness of that set up

As for the risk of death after release, I think this is largely just a matter of careful handling, and avoiding those species that studies have shown are not really suitable for catch and release due to high mortality rate (certain salmon on the ocean, hammerhead sharks, and anything that has a swim bladder and lives really deep)

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I’ve got no problem with fishing as long as it is done sustainable. I have no data to fall back on, but the introduction of catch and release has been a welcome thing. I also don’t have a problem with duck hunting - they recognised a long time ago that if they wanted to continue that practice, they would have to practice conservation as well. Enter Ducks Unlimited, which really does great work at restoring wetlands. Mammal hunting I consider so-so. Limits are set, but (at least in some parts of Manitoba) moose and elk populations are dodgy.
I guess my message is just do it sustainably - make sure you know how to handle the fish safely so they will be sure to survive. I don’t, so I would not resume fishing until after I found out how. I don’t hunt, so that’s not an issue for me. You should get some decent answers here.

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