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Practice both catch-and-release, selective harvest

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It is time again to have some discussion about the importance of both catch-and-release and selective harvest. There was a time when it seemed that these two concepts were at war over the best strategy to secure the future of fishing. I think both camps have come to an understanding that it is not one or the other, but both philosophies that need to be a part of the education of anglers and future anglers.

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Catch-and-release is about educating anglers to enjoy angling and the importance of releasing fish as a way of keeping fisheries healthy for the future of fishing. It is a technique for the conservation of the fishing resource. It can consist of all or some of the following considerations:

• The use of barbless hooks.

• Play the fish quickly to reduce the stress on the fish.

• Handling the fish with damp hands and no net will help the fish maintain its protective slime coating.

• Giving a fish slack line can allow them to free themselves without having to handle them.

• You will also need to cut the line if the fish is hooked deep instead of trying to dig the hook out of the fish.

• If you catch a picture-worthy fish, use CPR (catch, photo, release) in a timely fashion.

Even with experience and practice, some fish will not survive. Fish will accidentally be dropped, they may not have been able to be played quickly and just fought themselves out, they may have inhaled the bait and come to the boat injured or bleeding. These fish can be harvested for the table. It is about trying to improve the skills to release fish and having a conservation attitude. It is important to teach our young anglers to respect fish and the fishery.

Selective harvest is about taking fish out of the system for food with a consideration of maintaining the health of the fishery. Some of the imposed slot sizes and limits help set some standards for maintaining our fisheries. Because a lake does not have a size restriction limits does not mean we should not use our common sense and follow good management practices ourselves. We should not have to depend on a government agency to make sure we don't abuse our fishing resources. We all know it is important to leave the brood stock to ensure the system will continue to sustain itself. So practice selective harvest and teach young anglers to be selective.

Teach young anglers to take live fish pictures of quality fish and have pride in putting them back for the future of the sport. Take for the table what you need. Put the ego aside and don't be that "meat hog" type of angler. The days of filling the freezer for the sake of filling the freezer need to be over. The habit of over harvesting and having to throw away freezer burned or old fish because they didn't get eaten needs to be over as well. Practice catch and release and selective harvest. Educate and teach others so we can all enjoy a healthy fishing future.

(Laabs runs Brad Laabs Guide Service in Detroit Lakes.)

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