Those of us who utilize the resource the most must take personal responsibility to be stewards of the resource, and catch and release or selective harvest are just the jumping-off point for that lifestyle.
There are some real misunderstandings surrounding a lifestyle of stewardship, and we’ve addressed a few of them here.
"It’s not my job/I’m only one person."
It’s everybody’s job, and nobody’s more than ours. As anglers, nobody understands our fisheries or has a greater passion for them than us. It’s our unique understanding and our unique passion that positions us to be leaders in living a lifestyle of stewardship.
It is critical that we work together for a common good. Don’t feel cheated because "that guy over there gets to keep all his fish," or "your neighbor fertilizes his lawn and waters like crazy, so why can’t I?" Instead, be proud that you made the noble choice to live as a steward, and when your lifestyle runs downstream, it won’t be killing the fishery. Maybe "that guy over there" will pick up on what you’re doing and change his ways. Maybe he won’t, but by you choosing not to match his consumptive behavior, we reduce our total impact!.
"We already have limits in place to make sure we don’t over-fish the waters."
True, we have limits in place. But they aren’t enough on their own. Look at waters where strict "catch-and-release only" regulations are in effect. These waters generally offer more and larger fish. There are examples of bodies of water being fished until they were nearly depleted of fish, until catch-and-release regulations were put into place. Following the regulations, these bodies of waters rebound and become bountiful with fish,
providing excellent sport fishing opportunities.
Furthermore, harvest is only one part of the equation. Not enough water, polluted water, habitat degredation, invasive species - all of these have a lot to do with the health of a fishery, and have little to do with harvest.
"We couldn’t possibly drive any fish into extinction. There will always be more. Mother Nature has a way of working things out."
Tell that to the buffalo.
90% of the large-fish species that were in the ocean are now gone.
Fish, including sport fish in America, are added to endangered species lists every year. Unless there is radical change very soon, wild steelhead will be gone within our lifetime in the Pacific Northwest, and wild salmon are not far behind.