STRAY CASTS: Catch and release sees differing perspectives

While the Stray Caster waits seemingly in vain to find time to go fishing (the waters have not been that great on weekends lately, anyway), there is plenty of News in the fishing world.

There was a recent article by Angela Lau, of the San Diego Union Tribune News­paper (ain’t the internet won­derful) about a nice story of a largemouth bass. It had a reputation as one of the heaviest of its species ever hooked, yet it was found floating in a lake (two years after it was caught, by an angler who turned it over to a city official.

Lau reported that Jed Dick­erson, of Oceanside, and Mac Weakley, of Carlsbad, who caught the bass two years ago, were called to the ranger’s office to identify the renowned fish. The bass found floating across from a boat dock and it had the same distinctive black birthmark below its jawline as the one the men had released in 2006.

Lau wrote, “That’s it, that’s the fish,” Weakley said Friday afternoon. “The fish has lived out its life cycle.”

That bass is now in a freezer at the Dixon Lake ranger’s office, waiting for California Fish and Game officials to take tissue samples to determine its age. The fish, christened Dottie by the City of Escondido, is estimated to be 15- to 17-years-old.

The bass had apparently been dead for at least a day.  It measured 29½ inches and weighed about 19 pounds, which meant that it had lost some weight. It had been 25 pounds 1 ounce when it was weighed in 2006 – well above the 1932 world record of 22 pounds, 4 ounces. But then Dotty was fat with eggs; this time it apparently died shortly after spawning.

Instead of submitting it for the record in 2006, Weakley released the bass because he had foul-hooked it on its side. Hooking a fish somewhere other than in the mouth is not allowed if done intentionally.

Since letting Dottie go, Weakley and Dickerson had spent lots of time trying to find the fish and hook it by the rules.

Even though Dottie is now dead, it is kind of a nice story. We congratulate the men who followed the rules and let her go because she was foul hooked. Too many people would have been tempted to keep a fish that big, particularly since a world record bass like that can often bring plenty of commercial endorsements with it.

Less catch and release

Meanwhile, a gentleman named Mark Lamb reported earlier this year that catch and release fishing will be banned in Switzerland from next year.

Anglers there will have to demonstrate their expertise by taking a course on humane methods of catching fish, under new legislation outlined by the Bundesrat – the Swiss Federal Parliament. That legislation states fish caught should be killed immediately following their capture, with a sharp blow to the head from a blunt in­strument.

Under the new regulations, the use of live bait and barbed hooks is also prohibited except in certain situations.

The law forcing anglers to kill fish come into effect in 2009, but while the Swiss government does not mention catch and release specifically, it does say that "it is not permitted to go fishing with the ‘intention’ to release the fish."

Good one, guys. Leave it to government to mess up a perfectly reasonable activity. Under those regs, Dottie would have been whacked instead of getting to live out her natural lifespan.

Lobbyists are now approaching the Swiss government to see if some sort of common sense compromise can be reached. If not, maybe the government needs a sharp blow to the head with some blunt instrument.

Opponents of the law point out it is difficult to enforce a law because people cannot determine the “intent” to release a fish prior to its being caught.

They also argue that there are benefits to releasing fish, such as conservation.

It is no secret that the Stray Caster releases all the wild trout he is able to catch, and 99.9% of the stocked trout, too.

However, he will occasionally take home a salmon.

The Stray Caster firmly believes the decision should be left up to the angler, although he, too, does not like “fish hogs” those who keep their limit every time out.

The Stray Caster gets a good deal of his fishing information from the Grey Bruce Outdoor board. It offers a forum and topics ranging from bird watching to hiking, to hunting. It is definitely worth checking out.