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Angling opportunities limited by the sizzling heat

July 14, 2010
By Joe Hackett, News Outdoors Columnist

The region has experienced another week of hot, humid and sticky summer weather with a breeze that wasn’t strong enough to rustle the tree’s leaves.

    If only I could recapture the sizzling sensations of summer in the middle of February, when the bitter winter wind bites my ears and sends shivers down my spine.

    On the lakes, the windless waters have served to produce mirror images of the surrounding landscape, and little else. As a result, angling opportunities have been limited to windows of early morning or very late in the day activity.

    However, I have received reports of anglers taking big trout from the depths, where fish have gone to find the cooler oxygen-rich waters. I’ve also heard fish tales about the tremendous largemouth bass action available in the evening hours. The majority of this angling activity has involved working surface lures or flyrod poppers in the brushy shallow shoreline waters.

Catching up on catch and release

    Last week’s column, which considered current issues involving the practice of catch-and-release angling, certainly stirred a great deal of interest among both active anglers and the non-angling public.

    At the core of the practice, catch and release is a conservation ethic that provides anglers with an opportunity to protect fisheries from exploitation and to preserve the quality of these fisheries for future generations. It is accomplished by “releasing the fish (unharmed) to fight another day.”

    Practitioners of the catch and release ethic recognize that anglers should never fight a fish any longer than necessary. Fighting a fish to exhaustion may cause undue strain and the resulting stress and build up of lactic acids can result in mortality after release.

    At the core of this issue is the overall moral justification of hunting and fishing as sport. The two popular activities are consumptive pursuits that are essentially intended for obtainment of food in a traditional manner.

    Several readers questioned whether sportsmen and women actually hunt and fish for sport, or for the sustenance the activities can provide.

    I’ve often wondered about the percentage of anglers engaged in the pursuit of fish for food.  Personally, I relish fresh brook trout, yet I keep only a small fraction of the fish I catch. For me, angling is jointly a recreational and a consumptive activity. I enjoy both the sport and the catch equally.

    Does this statement make sport fishing morally defensible? Would it still be justifiable if my intent were simply to kill or injure another living creature for the sport of it?

    These are some very difficult questions to ponder as we take to the woods or the water, yet we must be willing to confront if we hope to introduce newcomers to our traditions.

    Most hunters understand the concept of a quick, humane kill, which is accomplished by a properly placed shot intended to cause no suffering of their prey. In essence, is fishing any different than hunting in the water?

    Angles stalk their prey with the same caution displayed by hunters. Anglers use camouflage lines, dress in light colors and are cautious to avoid spooking their prey. They may even watch a popular television show on ESPN, titled “The Hunt for Big Fish,” which is where some of the current troubles began.

Fish controversy in British Columbia

    When people hear the term “molestation,” it generally brings about an emotional response concerning terrible crimes committed by a seedy pervert hiding in the bushes.

    What many anglers don’t know is that Larry Dahlberg, the popular host of ESPN’s “The Hunt For Big Fish” was recently charged with molestation in British Columbia, Canada. However, the victim of his crime was not a child. The victim of the molestation was a fish, a 19-pound steelhead to be exact. And the arresting authorities were not even cops, they were fisheries officers.

    While filming an episode of the show in British Columbia, Dahlberg was accused of unsportsmanlike conduct when he allegedly played a large steelhead while fly fishing on the Kitimat River. In retrospect, it was obvious that Dahlberg worked the fish for the camera angles, not for purposes of “molestation.”

    According to an article in the Vancouver Sun, “after hooking the fish, Dahlberg played it to the net three times over a span of nearly 25 minutes.” The article reported: “Officer Andy Lewis believed Dahlberg was in violation of fishing regulations that state, ‘No person shall molest or injure fish.’”

    The incident has resulted in controversy concerning the purpose and practices of traditional consumptive activities. Has society become so politically correct and so overtly sensitive to the personification of wild creatures that we have forgotten that the human beings are the world’s apex predators?

    Is it fair to label anglers as molesters simply because they take pleasure in fighting a fish? What has the world come to?

    Humans are predators and are hard wired for nature. We can’t escape this fact. Yet, due to a constant connection to the combination of electronic devices, instant messaging, cell phones and 24-hour news services, we are in danger of becoming denatured.

    Maybe it’s time for the overly sensitive, politically correct, “couldn’t hurt a flea” crowd to take a long walk in the wild. There they will find a place where there is little controversy. In the forest, there is no Reality TV and no Bambi, but there is the constant reality that predators are neither sensitive nor politically correct. Would anybody mind if a sportsman accompanies the group?

Article Photos

Photo by Joe Hackett
Cameron Hackett of Red Hook happily displays his first trout taken on a flyrod. He appears to be hooked for life.



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