Coty Perry: The role of anglers in water conservation and fish population
Poor fishing practices, hazardous waste, dangerous over fishing and litter are harming our fish population. This is something we know. We often don’t know or realise that we each have the opportunity to make a difference. It just takes a bit of work, awareness, and care.
What many anglers don’t realise is that they are the custodians of the water. Our job is to look out for potential hazards and pollutants that may damage the fish population, hurt our catch and even pose health risks to people who consume the fish. Whether you are someone who fishes purely for recreation or you do plan to keep the fish you catch, you must understand your role in protecting our waters and preserving our fish population.
Okay, yeah, fish responsibly, but what does that really mean? What it means is that rules and guidelines are in place to protect our environment. I always laugh when I hear people complain about bag limits and on/off-seasons, but these rules are in place for a reason. You should understand that there are real consequences to over fishing and many of the methods used to catch fish.
As small independent anglers, we can do our part by following the rules put in place, releasing undersized fish and adhering to bag limits. It is also our responsibility to leave the water better than we found it. It’s no joke that garbage is harming our ocean, sea, and lake fish population. This is not scepticism or rumour; this is fact. We’re to blame for this. The quality and number of wild fish are dropping because the water quality is so poor. Do your part and realise that one person can make a difference.
It’s one thing to catch and throw a fish back in the water, but there’s so much more to it than that. You can’t just do anything with the fish when you catch it. You need to understand how to catch it, remove the hook, hold it, and return it to the water safely so it has a chance to survive.
The numbers are very skewed based on location and species, but it’s said that between five to 20% of fish die after being released. The number one reason for this is improper handling. In fact, so many amateurs hold bass the wrong way, which dislocates their jaw without you even knowing it. When they can’t snap their jaw closed on their food, it escapes. When it escapes, they can’t eat. When they can’t eat, they die.
So, even though the fish may look okay when you release it, you’ve actually made it impossible for that fish to survive. Understanding how to hold fish is so important for responsible fishing. This is a unique take on protecting our waters, but as I mentioned, there’s so much more to this than simply putting a fish back after catching it. Steering in the direction of innovation is something else we can do.
Take the excessive amounts of plastic in our oceans, for example. Companies all over the world are providing new plastic alternatives. A company called Bakey’s, in India, even makes edible spoons with different flavors to avoid plastic. Metal straws are also a great solution. Find ways to do your part. Another great example is specialised nets that have openings large enough to allow fish below the size requirement to escape, and they’re based on species, so they’re really efficient.
Long story short, awareness is key to water conservation and the preservation of our beloved fish population. If you call yourself an angler, you’re likely a lover of the outdoors, and it’s our responsibility to step in when more and more people continue to step out and turn a cold shoulder to our fish and wildlife.
• Coty Perry is a third generation angler who has a lot of experience on the water and a desire to share it.