Hook and cook can be good for a fishery

Jan. 27—Somewhere in the evolving of modern angling, the phrase "Catch And Release" rose to be the say all and do all... with anglers releasing all of their catch. Maybe Catch And Release for some select fish, but it's not how it should be for all fish.

I believe in releasing fish approaching trophy status; they are the fish who carry strong genes and are top breeders. The extra heavy largemouth bass or the smallmouth approaching a foot and a half all need to be carefully handled, unhooked and released to fight another day.

However, the art of angling wasn't developed over the past hundreds of years for the fish to be released. The art of angling was developed to put fish on the table to feed the family. Even now, under most situations, it should still be the primary objective.

I have actually met fishermen who have never eaten any of their catch. They don't know what a treat they have been missing not tasting the blessing of freshly caught fish. Too many times I've heard people say, "I like to catch them, but I don't eat them." Ohhhh... what they are missing!

Pan fish in particular fall into the "Hook And Cook" group. Crappie, bluegill, rock bass, and sunfish are so prolific they can overrun and "stunt" a fishery; leaving a favorite spot inhabited with only small fish. Keeping and eating fish from such a location actually does the fishery good by reducing the numbers, minimizing the competition of available food and increasing the overall size.

Early on as a boy, I learned to scale and clean fish. Later in life, I further refined my fish cleaning skills and became proficient with a fillet knife and an electric knife. Filleting reduces the catch to a smaller yet wonderful, bone-free pile of meat, and does away with the mandatory bone picking when eating cooked whole fish.

My daughters are no strangers to a fishing pole and can keep up with even old Dad. In teaching them how to fish, I also taught them how to clean fish for the table. Years of watching me or my wife Chris frying fish made them quite capable of going full-circle from "pond to plate."

Years ago, both of them had the separate experience of fishing with the man they would someday marry. In both instances, neither of their prospective husbands had a clue about cleaning fish and was just going to discard the catch. Not so fast... they soon witnessed their future better-halves quickly cleaning and getting the catch ready for the skillet.

This evening, Chris and I are dining on skillet fried bluegill caught last summer by our oldest daughter Kristi. It sure has been worth the effort teaching them both to fish, and clean fish. Time well spent!

till next time,


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