The Paradox of the Fragile Trout...It doesn't take a lot of reading (either internet or print) for one to stumble upon some resource stating that fish, particularly trout, need to be handled with extreme care upon being caught.
As such, there are barbless hooks, rubber catch nets, and movements, such as "Keep 'Em Wet" which stresses reduced exposure to air, that are all aimed at reducing the catch & release trout mortality rate.
|Image Courtesy Native Fish Society|
In concept, this all sounds good to me. I'm on board. I already use barbless hooks and make sure to wet a hand first when handling fish in an effort to protect the slime coat. Plus, anyone that's fished with me knows that the fish I do photograph sit in my net in the water until I'm ready to take a quick picture. Heck, sometimes I don't even take them out at all.
But if this all comes back to trout mortality...and people are openly willing to condemn someone who so even slightly mishandles a trout...well I guess what I'm saying is if trout are so fragile, and we're all so concerned about their welfare, why do we fish for them in the first place?
I mean you can pick up fragile item (like a drinking glass) gently, place it on the table softly, but you're not going to ask your buddy to toss it across the room to you like a baseball first, right? The odds of it surviving that ordeal are just not in its favor, even before you get your hands on it. Perhaps not the best comparison, but you get the point.
Look, I'm not trying to get all PETA here, (abhorrent is not the word for those clowns), but as anglers we're jamming a sharp hook in the mouth of an unsuspecting trout, dragging it through the water against its will, stressing and likely exhausting it in the process, all in the name of sport. Unless of course you plan to eat what you catch, but these days even that seems to be frowned upon by the vocal "majority." Thank you social media for that omnipresent guilt trip.
Maybe as conscientious anglers we shouldn't be fishing for the delicate trout at all, rather focusing on more hardy species like the bluegill that seem to thrive in every body of freshwater big and small, are regularly "mishandled" by trout standards, and only seem to come back begging for more.
Who knows, maybe those of us who tend to focus our efforts toward catching (and inadvertently mishandling) wild/native trout are the biggest sinners of them all? Perhaps we should just focus on stocked trout, which less face it, are largely intended to be "put and take" fish. At least the kind I'm thinking of. Heck, in some remote places trout get stocked by dropping them from the sky!
In the end, I'm not going to stop trout fishing. That'd certainly make for a crappy blog. I'm also not asking you to either. It's great that more focus is being placed on trout "safety" than probably ever before...and I'm in on all counts. This little paradox in trout welfare is just food for thought...and perhaps a catalyst for conversation.
Comments (as always) are welcomed below. There was certainly no science or research applied to this little ramble, so if you want to drop some knowledge, come and get 'em. Just remember, I'm on the fish's side here too.