The Bassholes - It takes one to know one.

Release a Fish, Eat a Fish
on Friday 12 June 2009
by Bob Jensen


Release a Fish, Eat a Fish

Fishing season is going strong across the Midwest. There are lots of folks fishing everywhere I travel, and that's a good thing. Fishing is fun anytime, but especially now when lots of us would like a diversion from some of the things going on in the world that aren't real pleasant, fishing is an outstanding way to take a break from those things. When you're near the water waiting for a fish to eat your bait, it's easier to feel a little better about some of the stuff that goes on in our lives.

Fishing is a great way to put some of life's tribulations on hold for a while, but it's also a good way to put a meal on the table, and some folks really appreciate that right now. Some people go fishing for fun, some go for food: Lot's of people go for both reasons.

In the past few years the catch and release concept of fishing has taken a strong hold. Simply put, you catch a fish, then you release it. Catch and release is a great concept. You're recycling fish. You catch a fish, then you give someone else a chance to catch that fish. That's a pretty good deal, and it's obvious that catch and release has enhanced fisheries everywhere.

However, the catch and release concept has maybe been taken too far by some anglers. Some anglers feel that every fish caught should be released. Catch and release is an option. If you want to release your catch, that's great, but if you want to keep your catch, and regulations permit you to do so, there's nothing wrong with keeping a few fish for the table. Fish are good to eat, they're good for us, and that's what they're out there for. The key is keeping the right fish.
Some fish lend themselves to catch and keep. Prolific species like yellow bass and perch and smaller walleyes are perfect for eating. They're very abundant in many lakes and they're great on the table.

On the other hand, black bass and muskies should mostly be released.

Progressive fish management regulations, mostly slot limits, have created outstanding walleye fisheries throughout the Midwest. Slot limits are simply limits where fish within a certain size "slot" must be released. That slot is usually something like seventeen to twenty five inches. Any walleye between seventeen and twenty five inches must be released. By doing so, we're protecting the brood stock of walleyes.

I was on two slot lakes recently. We caught lots of walleyes that fell in the slot and had to be released. We also caught plenty of walleyes that would have been legal to keep had we chosen to do so.

When slot limits are proposed for lakes, there is usually some complaining. However, those complainers usually like the slot limit after just a couple of years. They see that's it's more fun to catch big fish and release them then it is to catch little fish and release them, which usually happens with minimum length regulations.

The fish are biting. If you want to put your catch back, good for you. But if you want to keep a few, and if you obey the limits, don't hesitate to enjoy a fresh fish supper every now and then.

--Bob Jensen

Jensen is host of Fishing the Midwest television