Catch & Release Fail

Spednic Lake is my favorite place to fish. It’s a lot of fun to catch dozens of smallmouth bass each time we fish. It’s been catch and release there for at least 20 years. It’s a good place to improve your skills, try new lures to see what works and doesn’t, and for me personally, a good place to practice removing lures quickly and efficiently to get the fish back in the water as soon as possible.

Catch and release is great, until it fails the fish.

See the problem? Where’s the lure?

Where’s the lure?

We’ve caught approximately 125+ fish this year. Occasionally one isn’t hooked in the lip. Instead, it swallows the lure. Sometimes the hook(s) can be removed and the fish is fine, but not always. Once in a while you catch one you know won’t survive. If you’re on a body of water that allows you to keep the fish and it’s legal size, it’s all fine and good. You’ve caught supper.

When you’re on the Grand Falls flowage, Spednic Lake or other body of water where keeping the particular fish isn’t allowed, it’s a shame. You have no choice but to let it go, and that, folks, feels very wrong to me.

Steve was able to quickly remove the hook from this fish but it clearly wasn’t going to survive.

He lowered the fish back into the water and we hoped it would swim, but it didn’t.

The bass wasn’t able to go beneath the surface. Doomed, and not a damned thing we could do about it. I was hopeful for a split second when it jumped, but that was its last effort.

An eagle or osprey will make a meal of dead fish they find so it’s not wasted, but in my opinion it’s not the best use of the fish. The eagles and osprey can catch their own fish – fish without lures.

“This is wrong,” I said, watching the fish, wanting to take it out of the water, thump it on the head to kill it, and bring it home for supper. “This is wrong.”

I hate waste. We’re taught to not kill something we aren’t going to eat. Less than one percent of the fish we catch and release each year will die. Most of them are out of the water for less than a minute and are barely touched minus a thumb and forefinger used to hold the fish while the lure is removed. Most of them are no worse for wear. I do understand why we can’t keep the fish that are obviously going to die. Imagine how many times wardens would hear “it was going to die anyway.” That makes enforcing the law impossible. I believe strongly in catch and release. That doesn’t make it easier when I have to leave the dying fish behind.


Robin Follette

About Robin Follette

Maine Press Association award winner, 2013. Robin's Outdoors, Bangor Daily News, third place in Sports blogs. I grew up with a fishing pole in my hand and have always loved the outdoors. From gardening to hunting and fishing, kayaking, camping, hiking and foraging, most of my time is spent outdoors. I teach outdoor skills as a volunteer instructor for Hooked On Fishing - Not On Drugs and Becoming an Outdoors-Woman. Pro-staff at The Limb Grip. My personal blog is here. I'm currently working on my first book, a collection of short stories based on my outdoors experiences.