Catch & Release Works!...Sorta'
by: Robby Richardson 4/25/2012
Catch and release is a very heated debate topic that seems to arise on the forum quite frequently. My intentions with this blog are not to stir the pot on this topic, but to share a story that happened to me over the last week and a half.
Two Fridays ago a couple of my best buddies came up to fish for trophy lake trout with me. It was cold, windy, and occasionally snowing all day and the bite was tough to say the least. After nine hours with nothing, I get a bite and set the hook! My rod stops and not because my hands were numb. Over the next twenty-five minutes I fight a fish that doesn't want to give up! Drag rips, big head shakes, and some ninja moves that I've never seen a lake trout do all added up to be the best fight I've ever had from a laker and when she finally came to the net my jaw dropped at how fat this fish was!
My buddies and I measured, weighed, and took pictures of this incredible fish that was probably somewhere between 25 and 35 years old and then released her back to water to fight another day! After the release, all three of us looked at each other in awe of what had just happened. It felt really good to watch that fish swim away strong and we all celebrated with high fives and hugs!
Eight days later, a fisherman I know was fortunate enough to hook into and do battle with the exact same fish! I knew this was the exact same fish because it had two very distinct markings; one in the tail and one on its lower jaw. This fish provided two (and probably more) incredible lifetime memories for two different fishermen on two different occasions! It might just be me, but I think that is AWESOME! Especially for fish that grow to be so big and old!
Here is the "sorta" part of the story. Unfortunately, the angler who caught the fish after me kept it. So that fish will no longer be the source of any incredible fishing memories. The legacy and state record potential of that fish stops here. What this angler did was legal. But for fish (especially lake trout that can live 60+ years) to grow to trophy and record sizes, catch and release must be considered, especially now, when digital cameras are cheap and replica fish look just like and outlast the real thing!
So next time you are blessed with the opportunity to land a trophy of any species, consider practicing CPR (catch, photo, release) and relish the fact that another angler or even you might get another shot at that fish after it has gotten even bigger!
Blog content © Robby Richardson
Coyute, CO 4/25/2012 4:45:55 PM
fishinwfoos, CO 4/25/2012 5:30:34 PM
What a great blog. Couldnt agree more. Thank you.
redleader, CO 4/25/2012 5:46:09 PM
Between the dow and the killers at Blue, that fish WAS one of the last few last buffalo.
LittleFlyBigFish, CO 4/25/2012 6:50:42 PM
It's a bummer seeing a majestic fish like that harvested especially when you know it should be released back into the waters. Like you iterated, it takes practice to practice C & R. Seeing a trophy fish swim away is something that should be respected, but is so very hard to do given how big the accomplishment was - you landing a trophy fish.
Rationally speaking, until you see that specie of fish disappear is when those who do not practice C & R usually consider practicing C & R, but still is often difficult for most people to still follow through on letting the fish go yet they know consciously what they are doing is contradicting their new outlook on releasing the fish.
From experience is the best way to learn it, and just because you have a fishing license does not reinforce the fact why you should be able to take trophy fish from the lake or river you are fishing. Just because a license says you can keep those fish, it can just as easily be the other way around, or worse, the fisheries could be depleted so that fishing is poor.
stupidhurts, CO 4/25/2012 9:31:32 PM
Well as a mac fisherman as well I beleive I can keep what ever fish I would like and as fellow sportsman you should not frown upon someone keeping said trophy. It is no different than someone putting in for a trophy unit to go shoot the animal of a lifetime. Do you all think that I should get a dart gun and go out and dart a monster bull and take some pictures and walk away. I am a colorado native and have harvested fish for many years and kept what alot of people would consider trophies to eat not to mount or have some fiberglass form made to hang on my wall. If the mac population and size mean so much to you all then talk to the division and tell them to stop killing them not the sportsman who has paid to keep that fish. And as far as seeing a species disappear that is not solely the part of the angler it is also the dow we as sportsman pay for them to help maintain that fishery. And the divisions excuse of there not being he right amount of salmon in blue then lower the limit. I am not bashing anyone hear this is just my opion and with the amount of money that colorado residents pay a year to fish these waters there is no reason to not be able to maintain a great fishery for all species that are in blue.
JKaboom, CO 4/25/2012 9:43:53 PM
Well written and great pic!!! It is a tough subject no doubt...
5280MM, CO 4/25/2012 9:44:45 PM
I think your on to something! They should manage trophy fisheries like they do trophy GMU's by making you apply for a tag for 9 years before you draw one! Prefrence points for Trophy lakes! I like it! MM
Robby Richardson (SportFishColorado), CO 4/25/2012 10:13:49 PM
Stupidhurts- you share the same mindset with a lot of anglers. You do have every right to keep a fish that size within the legal limit. The eating argument is tough here. Yes, you would get a lot of meat out of a fish this size, but would you rather eat a 30 year old cow or veil? There are plenty of smaller, younger lake trout that will taste far better. As far as talking to the CPW, I and several other lake trout anglers have been to all of the round table and angler meetings discussing the netting procedures. We even went before the wildlife commision in an attempt to stop the lake trout from 30-38" from being netted and killed. It was to no avail. We have proposed lowering the salmon limit as well as every other possible remedy and the truth is that unless you have years of scientific data to back up your solutions, they will be ignored.
5280- I think you are truly on to something! A creature that is 20-40 years old should be treated like a trophy and a draw/tag system to be allowed to keep one is a great idea! If only we could convince CPW!
Robby Richardson (SportFishColorado), CO 4/25/2012 10:16:31 PM
LittleFly- You are right on the money. The disappearance of trophy fish will be the turning point in a lot of anglers decision to switch to C&R. Unfortutantely, it is very possible that this be too late.
spinn3r, CO 4/25/2012 11:03:54 PM
All I can say is, outstanding specimen! Congratulations. That was well worth your nine hours, and the countless others you must have spent learning the fishery.
moosegoose, CO 4/26/2012 8:04:52 AM
Great read. Well put! If one were to want to harvest a laker, what would you say a good slot size would be for taste as well as sustainability?
redleader, CO 4/26/2012 10:26:30 AM
The growth rates vary on different waters but on most co lake trout lakes a laker over 22" is an old fish, BM lakers have a faster growth rate but in general that is a good rule of thumb, the older the fish the poorer quality of tablefair and the higher percentage of mercury contamination, we have documented 22"ers at Granby at over 20 years old, I eat a lot of fish and eating the better tasting and sustainable fish and sizes makes sence, for those that are adamant about not caring a about the trophy fishery and I'll do what ever I want legally ideology need to get some common sence on selective harvest issues.
redleader, CO 4/26/2012 11:07:23 AM
In co. a trophy size lake trout is so old that it most likely has been caught and released before and a lot of them numerous times, you would have a very very poor chance of catching one if all anglers shared the catch and keep large lake trout mentality and were that selfish.
redleader, CO 4/26/2012 11:10:50 AM
I have seen anglers keep large lake trout that are older then they are just to put it in the freezer to show off to friends.
itchyreelfinger, CO 4/26/2012 11:14:31 AM
I want to weigh in on this. I have caught several legitimate trophies over the years. The first was a 34# Striper from Beaver Lake Arkansas, and the second a 28 1/2, 12 lb. Walleye from Mille Lacs, MN. Both are on the wall. While I am proud I have them and they produce lots of "oohs" and "ahhs" from people, it pains me a little bit that I kept and killed them. Because of that feeling the trophies I have caught since (another walleye, lake trout, small mouth) have all been released. It gives me just as much joy to show pics of them as it would to have them on the wall.
My point is this: It made me sad to read that the gentleman killed such a magnificent creature and I wish he hadn't done that but I can't begrudge him his decision. It would be hypocritical.
Any way...That is a BEAUTIFUL trout! Congrats!
tbblom, CO 4/26/2012 11:24:14 AM
Ư thanks for saying what needs to be said.
Just because something is legal does not make it right (and vice versa).
I wish more people used common sense.
Cheers to the guy who admits that he feels bad about his wall hanging trophies.
PS, I do take fish to eat, just very seldom, and not the huge ones.
Veal does taste better than old heifer.
Robby Richardson (SportFishColorado), CO 4/29/2012 5:19:58 PM
Moose- The best eaters are 22" and under. You will find a nice red hue to the meat of most fish under 22". I like to make ceviche with these fish and it tastes awesome!
Robby Richardson (SportFishColorado), CO 4/29/2012 5:21:40 PM
Itchy- I admire your response and new direction! Testimonies like yours will help other anglers think a lot harder about keeping a trophy to put on the wall!
Single2fish, CO 5/6/2012 1:36:50 AM
I have kept several trophy size fish over the years-a 10# cutbow and a 16# walleye. Then I discovered the Colorado Master Angler program. I have been able to get several certificates and patches each year for fish that I released-large mouth, bluegill and pike. I frame the certificate and photo and hang it on my wall. It is a lot cheaper than the mounts that I have had done. I'm not sure when the Master Angler program came into being, but if I had known about it when I caught the walleye in '99, I would still hold a state record for length (33 3/4") for a release. MA is a good step for conservation.
tbblom, CO 5/6/2012 8:06:49 AM
I recently spoke with an individual that bragged about mounting a big carp that he snagged on purpose (after he lost it on spinning gear)...
Killing and mounting a snagged fish that isn't even good table fare.
The general public has very little common sense.
Thanks again for the article.
EOrf, CO 5/6/2012 10:05:43 AM
Robby,Great Fish what did it tip the scales at??
brookieflyfisher, CO 5/7/2012 9:10:49 PM
That big old thing reminds me of this poem http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/the-fish/
It's too bad the next guy who caught it wasn't like the person in the poem.
flysthelimit, CO 5/9/2012 8:29:01 AM
I C&R. However one of my proudest posessions is a huge fish mount of my Fathers. It's in my office now, eventually my son will own it. A proud fishing tradition is being passed on. The hundreds of pictures I have are cool but they are not "the fish", I can pick up a magazine for pictures. Every once in a while an honorable fish is honored for generations through quality mounting. Fake mounts are just pictures. Do what you choose to do but there may be a time I choose to pass it on. A mac is not on my "trophy (bucket) list" so I would have released it to.