When you’re fishing, you want to be as stealthy as possible to land the fish. You don’t want the fish to sense your presence. Despite the effort to be invisible, a lot of anglers don’t mind leaving a trail of evidence that they were there. Here are a couple of tips that you can keep in mind to #LeaveNoFootprint
1. Bring a garbage bag
When I’m buying bait, I always ask for a bag. I use this bait to collect any excess line I’ve trimmed off, bait containers, food wrappers, etc. Since I do a lot of bank fishing at a popular area in my town, I also find myself picking up after others almost every time I go out. I’ve picked up beer cans, cigarette butts, line and other misc. tackle, socks, and all sorts of other things that shouldn’t be there. Come on people! Just pick up after yourself and the fishery will be nice for everyone.
2. Only keep what you need
Most of the time I’m a strictly catch-and-release type of guy, but I do enjoy the occasional fried catfish or walleye. When I do keep fish, I only take what I need or am going to eat. Though the daily limit for walleye is five in my state and I may catch five keeper sized walleyes, doesn’t mean I need to keep them all. Instead, I’ll keep maybe one or two for a meal, and let the rest go to potentially become a trophy fish for someone someday.
3. Practice good catch-and-release tactics
Taking the fish off the hook and putting it back in the water is only one part of catch-and-release fishing. It is important to take every measure possible to reduce the risk of mortally wounding the fish. One way you can do this is with your hook selection. I like to use the largest hook I can get away with using for each species. This isn’t exactly ideal for “finesse” presentations, but it helps avoid deep hooking the fish. Circle hooks are great for this because the way they are shaped almost always results in hooking the fish in the side of the mouth which will let you unhook the fish faster and return it to the water. Slowly lift the fish out of the water, and support it with both hands holding it horizontally to limit the strain that is put on the fish’s internal organs when held vertically. Only have the fish out of the water for the time it takes to get a photo or two, take any measurements you want, then gently lower the fish into the water and support it until it regains its energy and swims off on its own. The release itself is an incredibly gratifying experience when the fish swims out of your hand back into the water (trust me, try it!).
All of these things together can help protect our fisheries for generations. Won’t it be great to teach our children and grandchildren the fun and excitement of a fish on the end of a line just as we first experienced it?
For more information on sustainable angling, check out RecycledFish.org