Catch-and-release or kill-and-grill?
  |  First Published: March 2013

If you’ve been following this series so far, you should now be starting to catch a few more fish! Next, you’re faced with the decision about what to do with those fish…

Fishing is unique among the hunting sports, in that anglers can enjoy the full experience of finding and stalking their prey, hooking and playing the fish and landing it, yet still exercise the option of returning their catch to the water alive, with a high expectation that it’s going to survive.

Catch-and-release has become increasingly popular in Australia over the past decade or two. However, we mustn’t ever forget that fishing is hunting, and one of the most important motivating forces for many participants is the promise of a meal of seafood at the end of the day.

Keeping a feed of fresh fish is absolutely fine and highly commendable in my book, as long as you abide by the rules and regulations in the area where you’re fishing. I also believe that catch-and-release is a positive trend, and a practice to be encouraged in many fisheries. But I know that great pleasure can be found in providing fresh fish for the family table (and that’s a subject we’ll be looking at in coming issues).

Fortunately, plenty of room exists in Australian recreational angling for a mix of both styles of fishing — catch-and-release and catch-and-kill. The trick lies in identifying the more appropriate approach under the circumstances.

In a range of situations, the only option open is to catch and release a fish, particularly when keeping it may place you on the wrong side of the law. Obvious examples include the capture of undersized or protected fish, species taken out of season, or fish in excess of the bag limit. There’s also little point in keeping fish you can’t use or don’t need. These should all be released.

Although some anglers might regard themselves as purist catch-and-release advocates and voice disdain at the killing of any fish by fellow recreational anglers, fishing remains first and foremost a blood sport. On that basis, people who object to such activities on moral or ethical grounds really shouldn’t fish at all, because even catch-and-release anglers using the most careful methods simply can’t guarantee a 100% survival rate. In other words, if you go fishing, a certain number of fish are bound to die.

Too often in this modern era, the ‘blood sport’ aspect of fishing is ignored or glossed over. In an age when people are increasingly insulated from nature and from the processes involved in providing food for the table, fishing provides a refreshingly hands-on link to our past — to an age when we hunted and gathered successfully, or went hungry.

Few people in Australia today are likely to starve if fishing isn’t an option. However, the ability to be able to provide fresh seafood for our families and friends remains one of the great attractions of angling and nothing anybody says is ever likely to change that reality, nor the human emotions and aspirations that sustain it.

Next month: Successful catch and release tactics.

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