Troutnut.com Fly Fishing for Trout Home
User Password
or register.
Scientific name search:

> > Ethical / humane question?

Chris_3gAugust 21st, 2007, 9:03 am
Posts: 59Some of the streams I fish are tributaries to our lakes which often receive runs of rainbows and / or brown trout. These same tributaries, however, also receive stocked trout via the NY DEC, and these are the fish that I assume I am targeting when I fish them. I practice catch-and-release fishing, and as of late, I have been very mindful to de-barb my hooks.

That being said, I recently had the misfortune of hooking a particularly small rainbow (still with parr marks) around the eye. Anyway, I did what I could, but it was clear that I had messed this little rainbow up pretty badly. I released the fish, and aside from an intense feeling of guilt that has lasted for a couple of days, a lingering question has remained as to whether or not I should have released the fish or killed it, in order to be more humane. Do any of you have an opinion or a similar experience?

A further question that I wanted to ask is whether or not it is ethical to fish particularly inviting holes in streams where you know that juvenile trout exist, but where you expect larger fish should be holding. I really enjoy fly-fishing, but I am not particularly fond of maiming the trout in the process, especially wild juveniles. I understand that if a wild population exists, there will likely be juveniles present, but there is no way to inform the juveniles to stay home while I fish for their big brothers / sisters.

I have fished these tributaries, off and on, most of the season with the idea in my head that the stocked fish will have spread out and moved into the various holes throughout the stream. Out of all of these outings, however, I've only caught two or three trout that I considered to be reasonably sized, and these were mature wild trout. It's not that I don't like catching wild trout - I just don't want to harm the juveniles in the process, because a wild, reproducing population is a very good thing!

Thoughts, or am I over-thinking things to start with?

Chris.
SofthackleAugust 21st, 2007, 9:54 am
Site Editor
Wellsville, NY

Posts: 540
Chris,
Don't beat yourself up about this. Trout are survivors, and that trout will probably do fine. Remember that trout use other senses, other than their eyes to detect food. Their lateral line is one such way they do so.

I once read of a trout that was blind on one side, but that was surviving well. The fisherman that caught and released it knew this because when the fly was cast slightly beyond the fish, it would not take the fly. The trout did take the fly that was fished to it on the close side. Other than the injured eye, the trout was perfectly healthy, and went back to the water to continue its life.

There is no way, as far as I know, to fish for trout where you are not going to catch some immature trout, and this is especially true if natural breeding is taking place. Trout face a number of problems as they grow, especially predation--even by larger trout. Many do not make it, but a certain number do--thank God.

If you can locate a copy, I'd suggest a video called "The Way Of A Trout". It's an oldie but goodie and was issued by Trout Unlimited which originally released it as a film to show to chapters, etc.

My best,
Mark
"I have the highest respect for the skilled wet-fly fisherman, as he has mastered an art of very great difficulty." Edward R. Hewitt

Flymphs, Soft-hackles and Spiders: http://www.troutnut.com/libstudio/FS&S/index.html
DavezAugust 21st, 2007, 9:57 am
Pennsylvania

Posts: 59
you felt guilt for a few days? yikes, i think i might consider quitting fishing.

kidding.

yeah its cruel, there will be casualties, however you are making right by fishing debarbed hooks, heavier tippets and not playing them to death.

fish bigger flies in those holes. the big fish will eat them, the little guys might hit them, but not hook themselves.

good luck.
Jmd123August 21st, 2007, 10:21 am
Oscoda, MI

Posts: 2369
Chris, Dave, and Mark:

I MYSELF once caught a rainbow trout already missing it's right eye. Before I found this out, two things about this fish befuddled me - first, I could SEE IT crystal clear, but it didn't seem to care that I was there; and second, it only reacted to insects floating by on it's left side. It took me an hour and a half and several fly changes before it finally struck hard enough to get itself hooked. When I brought it to hand, I discovered why it ignored everything on its right side. While holding it, I thought about taking it home to eat - I was much more into eating my catch back then than I am now - and as I contemplated this it promptly jumped out of my hand and back into the river. So I though, it has survived THIS long with only one eye, so why not let it go? It seemed to be healthy otherwise, nicely colored and no other injuries. I have told this story before, so I'm now wondering if it somehow ended up being the story that you heard! There's an awful lot of similarities, that's for sure. Then again, I can't imagine that this is a unique experience...

I once accidentally killed a juvenile largemouth in Missouri while fly fishing a local stream, and it died right in front of me and sank to the bottom in plain sight. Made me feel like SH*T!! It didn't stop me from fly fishing though, not that day or ever since. There will always be the occasional casaulty, so long as it's not happening to EVERY fish you catch. Besides, the crayfish have to make a lving, too..

Jonathon
No matter how big the one you just caught is, there's always a bigger one out there somewhere...
MinnesotaApril 26th, 2012, 4:51 am
Caledonia MN/LaCrosse WI

Posts: 35
"the way of a trout" is a great video, i have it on vhs. My 5th grade math teacher lend it to me, and I made a copy. But when i dubbed it, I had the audio on my local radio station on my channel 3. And the crazy thing is, the music lines up really awesome. If a fish don't make it, it will be food for birds, eagles, and plenty of other species. It will not get wasted.
Jason Moe
PaulRobertsApril 27th, 2012, 10:39 am
Colorado

Posts: 1776
Sounds like FL tribs. Most of those tribs produce wild fish, and are supplemented. Small rainbows esp have large eyes set well forward, so they are at most risk. There are a couple things you can do:

-Reduce hook gap. To protect little 5inch parr, go #12 or smaller. For 8" go #8 or smaller. Go #4 or smaller to protect 12"ers.

-Avoid the shallower holds that normally (no always) are dominated by small 'bows. Also, small bows can use faster shallower currents than larger bows and simply faster current than browns. Avoid those fast shallow riffs, esp at the pol heads. Bc of the speed diff between fish, I've often offered that, if you are only catching little bows, you are fishing too fast.

In some FL tribs (Catherines and Cayuga Inlet esp) there can be so many small bows that they are hard to avoid. There is better fishing elsewhere though, so if you have the option, try others trout waters.

As to ethics, that's your decision. Ethics is monitored within, (and influenced from without -your reason for asking I suppose). Few of those eye damaged fish survive I assume since I so rarely see one-eyed fish, esp in trout, although I may see lots of jaw damaged trout. I doubt your fishing, with an occasional eye piercing is going to impact the fishery.
VinlflyfishApril 27th, 2012, 9:09 pm
northern cambria

Posts: 42
I also have caught a fish missing an eye it was an 18 inch rainbow the eye was completely healed over and was perfectly healthy
trout; a mans best friend
TroutnutApril 28th, 2012, 1:29 pm
Administrator
Bellevue, WA

Posts: 2541
I released the fish, and aside from an intense feeling of guilt that has lasted for a couple of days, a lingering question has remained as to whether or not I should have released the fish or killed it, in order to be more humane.


If it was too small to legally keep, then it should definitely have been released. Even if you could have kept it, releasing it is still okay. Some fish survive with one eye. Most small trout don't survive to become big trout, anyway. Worrying about "humane" deaths for fish in the wild is rather pointless. The fate of most of them is to be chewed up alive or slowly suffocated to death in the digestive juices of a larger fish or bird.

You should certainly make a fair effort to minimize suffering, but don't feel at all guilty when the results aren't perfect.

A further question that I wanted to ask is whether or not it is ethical to fish particularly inviting holes in streams where you know that juvenile trout exist, but where you expect larger fish should be holding.


I think the "fair effort" to minimize suffering involves things like de-barbing your hooks and not keeping fish out of the water too long if you plan to release them. It does not involve curtailing your angling opportunities.

I understand that if a wild population exists, there will likely be juveniles present, but there is no way to inform the juveniles to stay home while I fish for their big brothers / sisters.


There are also many more juveniles in a system than will ever make it to adulthood. They have to run a gauntlet of herons, bigger trout, pike, bass, or other predators that make you and your barbless fly look like a walk in the park. If you maim one, take comfort in the fact that it probably wasn't going to make it anyway. This isn't an invitation for people to deliberately maim large number of small trout, of course, but a reason to not feel guilty when it happens by accident.
Jason Neuswanger, Ph.D.
Troutnut and salmonid ecologist
GldstrmSamApril 30th, 2012, 6:03 pm
Fairbanks, Alaska

Posts: 212
Small rainbows esp have large eyes set well forward, so they are at most risk.


I know definitely how that is. In one lake I fish up here, I mostly caught small rainbows and an occurrence that happened all to often was that the hook would go up through the roof of the mouth and damage the eye. That was when I still used worms. Now I started using flies the damage done has been cut down amazingly.

Due to the damage done I now would only use worms if I was fishing to eat.
There is no greater fan of fly fishing than the worm. ~Patrick F. McManus

Quick Reply

You have to be logged in to post on the forum. It's this easy:
Username:          Email:

Password:    Confirm Password:

I am at least 13 years old and agree to the rules.

Related Discussions

TitleRepliesLast Reply
Re: winter bow
In Fishing Reports by Benjlan
6Jan 12, 2011
by PaulRoberts
Re: South Fork Castle Creek
In Fishing Reports by Bioprofsd
2Jul 27, 2011
by Troutnut
Re: Spring on a Spring Creek
In Fishing Reports by Motrout
1May 5, 2011
by Troutnut
Re: Donegal Spring Creek
In Fishing Reports by Wbranch
2May 8, 2011
by Wbranch
Re: Please Help Identify!
In the Photography Board by Neilstall
2Jan 5, 2019
by Neilstall
Mid-winter dry fly action
In Fishing Reports by Motrout
0
Re: Double rainbow video
In General Discussion by Fish_she
1Sep 28, 2010
by Shawnny3
Re: A change of venue
In Fishing Reports by Flyfisher06
11Jul 5, 2007
by Mcjames
Re: Fall foliage, flowers, fungi...and FISH!
(6 more)

In the Photography Board by Jmd123
3Oct 13, 2011
by Motrout
They're STILL eating my hoppers! Plus, a very large minnow...
(1 more)

In the Photography Board by Jmd123
0
Most Recent Posts
Re: 1wt gear
In Gear Talk by Red_green_h (Martinlf replied)
Re: Site updates from September 13, 2019
In Site Updates by Troutnut
Re: Site updates from September 11, 2019
In Site Updates by Troutnut
Re: Fly fishing etiquette
In General Discussion by Red_green_h (Jmd123 replied)
Re: Site updates from September 8, 2019
In Site Updates by Troutnut (RleeP replied)
Re: Looking for advice
In Fly Tying by OldHasBeen
Re: Site updates from September 10, 2019
In Site Updates by Troutnut (Martinlf replied)
Re: Ice dub versus sparkle dub
In Fly Tying by Brian314
Site updates from September 4, 2019
In Site Updates by Troutnut
Re: Ophiogomphus occidentis
In the Identify This! Board by Millcreek (Troutnut replied)