Friday, February 18, 2011

My take on fishing

 “This blog entry is my submission for the GreenFish and Outdoor Blogger Network Writing Prompt Giveaway” 

Scanning through the Outdoor Blogger Network’s writing prompt page yesterday I came across a combined prize giveaway and writing prompt. Sponsored by GreenFish, a site that I’d not previously heard of the prompt was to air ideas upon “sustainable fishing” and what this phrase means to the individual blogger. My interest was piqued and coupled with slimmest chance to receive some goodies to boot well this ol’ pirate could hardly refuse now could he? So here it goes my, probably somewhat misguided, thoughts on what I consider sustainable fishing means to me.

For a start I indulge in two types of fishing, one for sport and occasionally the other for the pot. Taking the sport option first, the type of fishing that is loosely called sport is more what I would term recreational fishing. It’s a chance for myself and Clare to ‘out there’ together along side some beautiful stretches of water immersing our selves in the solitude and wildlife that comes with the territory. On this side of the pond it is termed ‘course fishing’ and basically covers any fresh water fishing apart from fly fishing or trapping (nets, long line etc). I say solitude as even though we go together once we’re fishing we may as well be a million miles apart for usually we’re not in sight of each other and only converse when a decent specimen is landed (usually by Clare!) or it’s time to get the hot water boiling for a brew.

But ‘sustainable fishing’, to be honest I had not given thought as to regards to this activity of course fishing when we’re involved. On reflection the practices, when course fishing, that we follow are akin to this idea. Firstly to lesson the damage to the fish we use barbless hooks, easier to remove although sometimes more skill is required in landing the fish (yes I did say skill). We do not follow the practice of hording the fish within a keep net until the end of the session. I know some folk like to see their results at the end of the day but I’d prefer to unhook, perhaps take the quickest of photographs, and then release the fish as gently and as quickly as possible. It only takes a few moments to admire your catch; there is no need to over handle the fish causing more stress than has already been done. This is also the reason we don’t match fish where hauls of fish are kept in the net till the end of the day when they are unceremoniously dumped into scales for gratification of folk hoping to win some imagined esteem.

It has become the trend here to catch bigger and better (ahem) fish. Many private fisheries have set up announcing that they have such splendid specimens of mainly carp but also Wels catfish and you cannot fail to catch. I do have a tiny problem with this mentality. The growth of this type of fishing has seen, in my opinion, a drifting away from what fishing means to me, which is connecting with nature and using skill and natural baits to lure a wild animal to the river bank for that chance to connect with it just for a moment before releasing it back from whence it came. Another problem that I have with this current trend is that it is now causing the falsification of natural environments, much to there (and our) detriment. From what I see large numbers of fish over the years have been imported to these shores to enhance the fishing experience but in my opinion this has tipped an ecological balance for the worst in a lot of waters. How so?, well firstly some of these species were not natural residents in our waters, fish such as Zander (the pike perch) or the potentially huge Wels catfish. It is only in recent yours that it is becoming apparent and now more accepted by a broader public that introduced species into any environment, potentially, can be an ecological nightmare. Other fish introduction does occur mainly in the form of specimen Carp, although the species has been native to this country since the 1300’s and now is considered a native species, these ‘monster’ carp that are now being introduced (after large sums of money have oiled the process, I assume) come with three things that I’m not happy about, firstly there is the potential of spreading disease to existing native fish, remember that here is basically a large island and in so being has kept species isolated and free from continental disease, (until you know who’s interference that is), secondly our natural waters have never produced specimens as large as these from abroad, so how can they be expected to support them now? It is only through artificial methods and feeding that this can happen, all having impacts of lesser or greater effect upon our waters, and finally the amount of unnatural bait that is being loped into what were once naturally balanced waters can only add to the pollution within, whether they are eaten by these ‘monster’ fish and then defecated or just rot on the floor of the water, either way the balance is lost. It’s for these reasons that I feel that fresh water fishing is not sustainable in its present state and that’s why I fish as I do, trying to use natural baits, leaving no sign of my visit to the bank side and just enjoying it for what it is – a connection, however briefly, to another side of nature. Some of the best days fishing that I’ve had have been days when I’ve blanked, it’s shouldn’t just be about having that fish on the bank.

            But, as mentioned, there is another side to my fishing, one that Clare does not participate in, and that’s fishing for the pot. Although I only indulge in this rarely (far too rarely for my liking) I do enjoy this type of fishing, but for other reasons that the tranquility that course fishing provides to me. When fishing for the pot it is always from the sea, our coastline is vast and varied and offers many opportunities to fish for different species, and there is the added bonus of possibly a fresh meal at the end of the day. But even here there are issues to be found, where ‘holiday’ anglers think nothing of hauling a bin bag full of mackerel from the sea only to disregard them and leave them wasted upon the rocks or in the dockside bins. There are areas so overfished that where once abundant stocks could be found, the only thing you’re likely to catch are dog fish or crabs! Also there are still issues with the unholy amount of detritus left behind by so called fisher men, causing serious harm to waterside wildlife (an issue on fresh waters as well). It’s true that, as folk are becoming more enlightened, practices are changing but it’s a slow a laborious process and the damage to our coastlines may have already cut too deep. Of course it doesn’t help when mankind’s growing population demands more and more from the oceans larder, but the perception that it is a larder is possibly the core problem, after all it is another complex ecology that is affected by all our actions. Personally I try to adopt the same principles when sea fishing as I do for course fishing. Natural baits, leave no sign and just take the bare minimum for what I need for the pot. Admittedly I do use barbed hooks, after all the idea is to catch something to eat, but the fish has always been dispatched as quickly as is possible. There is nothing better than grilling a pair of fresh caught mackerel, stuffed with lemon and dill, over driftwood embers whilst watching the sun dip beyond the horizon, oh perhaps there should be a rock pool chilled bottle or two of cider there as well. But sadly this may one day become just a memory if fishing practices are not changed. From what I hear New Zealand has some great ideas on this, reserving large areas of the coastline and island surrounds with no or extremely limited fishing allowed, the apparent upshot of these areas is the abundance of fish that spill out of them into surrounding, fishable areas – perhaps it’s time that other country took note because I for one do not want to remember eating fresh fish on the rocks, I want to do it till the day that I die and hope that others follow for millennium to come.

            Of course these are just my observations and thoughts on this subject, we all have our own take on life. I’m no scientist (as you all well know) and these views are formed, rightly or wrongly, from my own experiences. As usual your comments are always welcome and are looked forward too.

Your friend,



RDS said...

My dad is an angler. Every important moment in my poor mum's life has been initially experienced alone, coupled with a wait for my dad to get there! Back int black n white days when I and my sisters were born, there were no such items as mobile phones...each time my mum went into labour - where was my dad? On the riverbank! Each time we needed to go to A & E where was my dad? fishing. He claims his favourite food is black dried up 'snurked' ( his word) up anything which I think was derived through necessity because again, technology was pants! His tea was kept warm for aaaaaaages in the oven even though he was only 'nippin for an hour' Microwaves hadn't even been featured on Tomorrow's World yet! Where were my childhood summer holidays spent? Lake Swantley. Sounds an idyllic spot. It wasn't. At the time, as kids, me and my sisters loved spending the day in basically what was a sheep field with a huge lake in the middle of it. We played "One man and his dog" sun up to sundown! I am not sure the farmer was aware of our activities, but I often ponder - were the livestock in that field more nervous than any of his others?

My poor dad in vain one holiday in North Wales caught 34 mackeral - we don't eat the fish! My mum HATES fish, the smell of fish, the look of fish etc etc. Now he goes Salmon fishing, we have a freezer full, as he catches some monsters.
I am proud of the way, over the years he has stood up for his fishing rights; battling with the local uni over canoeing/rowing rights, having 'Angry Angler' letters published in the local press, working ( with us as (un)willing river bank slaves) to clear, maintain and help out the environment he spends so much of his time in.

The recent TV campaign by Hugh Fearnley Eatsitall ws very interesting viewing indeed. I havn't bought prawns or scampi since!


( I did post as RDS, but as I was new to blogging and most of my friends know my online name for most things is rachelradiostar I wasn't sure if I was ready to go 'public' - which is laughable! But think now I don't mind if the 'public' I know take a look! So far I only have 3 followers! Hardly world domination! It's all drivel! You write very well :) )
Feel free to take a look - I have so much to say - however, not had the time to say it yet!)

RDS said...

Me again - ps it's COARSE fishing! hope you don't mind me picking that up - it might affect your competition chances??
I am terrible with spelling myself but couldn't ignore it!
rachelradiostar :)

RDS said...

sorry - last time then I will leave you in peace!
you said
"But even here there are issues to be found, where ‘holiday’ anglers think nothing of hauling a bin bag full of mackerel from the sea only to disregard them and leave them wasted upon the rocks or in the dockside bins"
I wrote about my dad's holiday catch - he did throw them back knowing full well we wouldn't eat them!
I needed to add that!
Rachelradiostar :)

Le Loup said...

An excellent post my friend, but as usual with our blogs you are probably preaching to the converted! After all these years and so much said about NOT cra**ing in your own nest, people still do it. I simply cannot understand that mindset, it makes no sence to me.

Murphyfish said...

Wow where to start, firstly spelling is probably my worst point about blogging (amongst many other bad points) and spell check does not know what I mean half the time ;-) so you'll find many an error creeping in, but hey as long as folk get the gist of things I'll get by.
I guess that I used a broad brush with the term 'holiday anglers', not all holiday anglers are irresponsible nor are all series anglers responsible, there are folk on both sides who could learn to look after the environment in which they fish. so I take my hat off to your father for his consideration.
As for the first comment I guess that I'm lucky in that my Clare course fishes alongside of me, unlucky that she's the better fisher :-)
Thanks for taking the time to comment me dear, and purely because of your comment in your profile about the DFS sale you have another follower - looking forward to see your blog develop.

Hi Keith,
I think you could be right, the majority of folk that we seem to interact with on these blogs do seem to have the right attitude towards the outdoors. Well right that is if you believe preserving this earth for the future is in your interest. "Crapping in your own net" does seem to be the norm for many folk, and like you I become frustrated about how that they cannot see the affect, not just globally, but upon their own lives that it has.


Rachelradiostar said...

Clare is a better woman than me! My other half and son go fishing. I guess my dad's passion turned me the other way! Also I am not a fan of the amount of fishing crap( equipment they call it) sits in my dining room! :)

Murphyfish said...

It's usually the case, when 'forced' to do stuff by our parents we have a tendency to rebel and harbour a life long dislike instilled.
We don't used a mass of gear, simple is my middle name (no laughing at the back, by keeping it to a minimum I think we get more enjoyment.
You should try it one day, even if it's just for the peace of sitting by a smooth running river and watching the wildlife come and see you.

Rachelradiostar said...

Aww bless you for trying to convert me! I have no problem with sitting by the river etc and that's what I do like - I just prefer not to touch yukky maggots and yukkier slimey smelly fish. ( I guess, to my own disgust) that I am such a girl! ) My dad only ever let me fish once. I remember his wicker basket scratching my legs. He baited the hook. I did like the casting in 0 and I KNEW I'd got a bite buut there was NO WAY I was reeling in a real live fish! Besides I was more concerned watching my sisters herd MY sheep! ( I am the oldest, ergo I was the ( pretend ) farmer IN CHARGE!

Murphyfish said...

Oh maggots are not yukky - just misunderstood. Does sound as if your childhood was fun though.