“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
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. Wels
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.