Conservation, What Every Angler Needs To Know

Reduce, reuse, and recycle have become common place concepts in our everyday lives. The same holds true when fishing. If we don’t look after our environment and take care of our fisheries then we may not see them in the future. I am lucky as I live in Southern Ontario so I have many clean and well stocked lakes. However, we all need to work together to keep our local fishing holes full of fish, no matter what part of the world we live in so that we can enjoy the fun of fishing for years to come.

One of the best things you can do is practice “catch and release”. This has grown to be an ever more popular way of conserving the fisheries for all. We all love the sport and the true fun lies in the fight that the fish gives you. Being able to find it, use the right bait, hook it, and then land it is what fishing is all about. When you do bring that big one in take a picture, measure it, weigh it, and then turn around and put it back into the water. No matter if it is a large fish or a small one, they are all necessary in maintaining the ecosystem. The small fish are necessary so that the big ones can eat and eventually the small ones will grow into the big ones, so it is imperative that we don’t keep every fish we catch. I am not saying that you have to throw back every fish you catch, I am just suggesting that we all have a part to play in conservation and it is a good idea to release the fish so that you or another angler can have the excitement of catching it again.

Personally I keep very few of the fish I catch and the only reason I will keep a fish is to have a nice shore lunch. Everyone likes a good fresh fish but realistically one fish per person is all you need. Taking a few fish is usually okay and will not stress the ecosystem too much. Check your local regulations on what fish you can catch and keep. The regulations will specify what time of year you can keep fish, the size limit, and the amount of fish you can keep.

When releasing a fish try to get it back into the water as quickly as possible. After you bring it ashore or into your boat unhook it and get it back into its environment. As we all know fish have gills so they can’t breathe when they are out of the water, they are slowly suffocating when out of their natural habitat. One way of assuring that the fish you caught goes back to its normal state is to revive it a little. What does that mean? No, don’t give it mouth to mouth resuscitation but place it back into the water gently. As you place it back in the water hold it by its tail and slightly move it back and forth. This allows the fish to get its bearings back and allows it to start breathing again. You will usually use this method only on fish that you have fought for a little while. These fish will be more stressed, tired, and will require extra attention so that they can return home and live to fight another day. For the most part pan fish or fish that you land quickly will be able to be placed into the water and will swim off with no need for this revival method.  If we release the majority of the fish we catch, the longer we will be able to go out and fish.

Another new factor in conservation is the introduction of invasive species. As massive container ships come into our harbours and release ballast water, small fish, bugs, and crustaceans are transported from over sea ports. These invasive species are introduced into a new environment that they have never seen before and for some of them our waters provide ideal living conditions. One of the major invasive species in my area of Southern Ontario is the Zebra Mussel.  These mussels are native to Southern Russian lakes but as container ships from that area have moved around the world, the Zebra Mussel has caught a free ride and become an invasive species in a variety of locations. One of the ways we can help lower the spread of these mussels is to inspect our boats when we remove them from the water. Make sure that no mussels are attached to your hull and if they are simply remove them. This will make sure that you do not introduce Zebra Mussels to any new lakes that you visit.

Another invasive species that has made some noise is the Round Goby.  The Goby family of fish is one of the largest in the world. However, these fish have not necessarily proven to be a huge detriment to the lakes in Southern Ontario. In Lake Ontario for instance many people are actually starting to use baits and tubes that resemble the Round Goby in order to land monster smallmouth bass. These fish which usually grow to be only about 10cm (4in) long make a perfect baitfish for the big predators. However, we should err on the side of caution because we do not know the long term implications of this invasive species. For now they haven’t proven to be as bad as the Zebra Mussel, but in a few years they may choke out our native species. Below is a picture of some of the major invasive species found in my area.

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Help make fishing not just a pass time for today but something that we and the future anglers can enjoy for a very long time.