Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Fourth of July Fishing Observations

Walking the streets of Northfield yesterday, we took in a lot of good 4th of July activity... including some folks fishing the Cannon from the high wall in Bridge Square. With my son on my shoulders, we watched folks pull in a few interesting specimens. Among them was a freshwater drum (sheephead) that was one of the largest I've seen caught... likely a very old fish. Unfortunately this fish was gut hooked, and the fisherman proceeded to probe the fishes innards in an effort to retrieve his hook. We watched him pull out the pliers, thinking he finally had it... but instead the instrument held a piece of the fish's gills. After more gouging, pulling and prodding he finally got the hook loosed... and proceeded to throw the fish over the wall - blood trailing from beneath its gill plates. The whole scene was disappointing.

In my opinion, bait-fishing is not a good approach to angling; however, if it is to be done: (0) plan to keep most or all fish that you catch - "catch and release baitfishing" usually doesn't work out well; if you do find that you must release fish though: (1) pinch the barbs on the hooks, (2) know what fish you are after, and size the hook accordingly so it can fit in the fish's mouth but not be swallowed, (3) watch your line carefully so you can strike early and hopefully lip most fish, (4) if the hook is buried, cut it off as close as you can, and let the fish go.

The Cannon River holds more than 70 species of fish (few examples in photos here). Despite its problems, it can still be a good fishery. We should treat it, and all of its denizens with respect... And I don't mean fly fishing only, or releasing all fish. I mean being careful and thoughtful with whatever approach you employ, and with any fish you encounter. An 8-year old sheephead - a living, breathing and swimming fish - deserves the same thought and care as a walleye or smallmouth.


Blogger John Montana said...

Well said J. I spoke to an angler fishing with his kids at a local carp pond. They were catch and release fishing with bait, and while i encouraged them to fish, I told them that if they were not intending to keep the fish, artificial, barbless lures made more sense. He actually received this well and asked what type of artificials to use, at which I opened my flybox and gave him several examples. He was not prepared to fly fish, but with a little split shot could present that fly with spinning gear.

Granted, bait fishing is probably more effective, but killing fish (even incidentally) that you don't intend to keep will only hurt the fishery, and kill any future enjoyment for which you might have hoped. It is a small adjustment that is easily made.

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