Stewardship Tip of the week
Catch and release fishing is one of the most powerful tools for conservation. It is also used across a wide, and diverse, population of anglers. Consider:
- In the United Kingdom, course anglers have practiced catch and release for more than a century to prevent target species from disappearing from heavily fished waters.
- In the Chesapeake watershed, catch and release angling has been a critical component in restoring the American and Hickory shad runs.
- An Illinois angler released a 105-pound blue catfish back into the Mississippi River after catching it in a tournament in 2010.
We usually associate catch and release fishing with the “glamor” fish such as Salmon, Trout, and Bass. While catch and release fishing has benefitted many populations of these highly prized fish, all species can benefit from catch and release. For example, the shad runs, famous in the Chesapeake watershed, have been in decline since the 1970s. A moratorium was placed on the possession of shad in the Chesapeake and its tributaries; this led to the growth of a catch and release fishery. In addition to the catch and release regulations, the various departments of fish and game in the Chesapeake watershed have introduced stocking programs. In Virginia, for example, tagged shad were introduced into the headwaters of the James, Rappahannock, Potomac, and Pamunkey Rivers. Studies by the Virginia Department of Fish and Game have shown that the numbers of American shad returning to the James River have increased dramatically.
Catch and release is a tool that can be used for any type of fish, not just the fish that get the headlines. It is certainly a tool that you should use as a conservation measure. It is also a tool that you can use to return large fish to the population. A trophy that is returned to the water may live to fight another day. More importantly, that trophy may reproduce and pass its genes on to the next generation of fish.