Posted to www.pierfishing.com(message board)
 

Subject: Confessions of a reluctant angler ... (longish)
Name: pierhead
Date: Oct-24-05 1:54pm

Many men go fishing all their lives
without realizing that it is not fish they are after

Recently I ran across an old post of mine that used this quote in the signature. Thoreau probably meant it to be provocative and this time it was ... it started me thinking about why I go fishing ... what am I "after"?

Here are some of my reflections ...

First and foremost I enjoy the constant intellectual stimulation that comes from learning about the environment and the various ecosystems around me.

I grew up reading the old National Geographic and became somewhat of an amateur naturalist ... collecting and studying all sorts of creatures ... frogs, snakes, mice, butterflies etc. I joined scouting as a way to further that interest and to hone my collecting skills. After school I did my homework at the local library where books on the outdoors were a frequent, but welcome, distraction. On weekends I was either haunting the local Museum of Natural History, standing in awe of the dioramas and other displays, or out in the nearby foothills, creeks and beaches actively exploring.

Fishing was frequently a part of those explorations and I gloried in being able to try out newly acquired skills and knowledge in predicting when and where the fish would be and what combination of baits or lures and retrieval techniques might attract them.

But, always, there was a nagging feeling in the back of my mind that it didn't seem right to put a fish through all that without a better reason than momentary satisfaction. I was uncomfortable with the blood and the occasional fatalities. It wasn't so much the amount of harm that I was doing to fish, as important as that is, because my 'take' was minuscule and I'm aware of recent scientific studies that seem to indicate that there is not much pain involved. But still the fact that I was prepared to inflict even minor pain, in pursuit of pleasure has always bothered me. Why this particular sensitivity I don't know nor no longer question ... it's just me.

Documenting my catches for the reef species survey at Goleta or meat fishing for myself or others didn't bother me as much ... those fish were being utilized for a good cause and I employed circle hooks and other techniques to reduce the incidental damage. Even the extended out of water photo sessions for subsequent posts seemed justified as long as the intent was to be informative and promote an interest in pier and shore angling.

Eventually though even those reasons failed to pacify my uneasiness and I found myself fishing less and less ... mostly in solo trips along the coast ... as much for the peace and solitude as for the angling itself.

To be honest I can't say that I ever needed to fish for food and I rarely eat fin fish anyway, other than halibut. But I do enjoy exploring new areas and fishing allowed me to get a bit closer to nature than I otherwise would. Unfortunately the method used in satisfying my interest resulted in some pain and often considerable stress for the fish. Feeling the way I did was beginning to have it's effect.

Unlike PETAns I certainly don't think that what's appropriate for me should be the norm ... it's just most ethical positions are on a continuum and I happen to find myself at the far end of this one. Many anglers decide to opt out at various levels for personal reasons ... hence the popularity of C&R and the reluctance some feel at exclusively targeting species for the fight alone. The question I'm asking myself then is where do I stand... where do I draw the line?

Do I have to give up fishing all together or is there a middle way ... one that would allow me to continue participating without making myself uncomfortable? I think there might be.

Tentatively I have been exploring hookless fishing ... which relies instead on finessing the fish to the surface for identification, and into the (soft) net if necessary, while it is still holding onto the bait. In the past I have had some accidental success with halibut and lingcod ... both toothed species with reduced inclination to let go once they have fully committed. For me this is certainly an intriguing approach and if successful could overcome many of the objections raised against our sport ... but I think it is still going to be a difficult transition :)

What I want to assure the rest of you is that I am really trying to keep an open mind on this and there is no intent to be judgmental -this is just a personal struggle I'm going through. The reason that I am sharing this is that I suspect that I am not the only one who feels uncomfortable and it might be good subject for a general discussion.

And perhaps I'll pick up a few tips on how to avoid what looks like a spectacular upcoming run of skunked outings :)

Peace,
 
 

____________
Pierhead
Proud Supporter of UPSAC

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Subject: Being there is a good enough.........
Name: socaljerry
Date: Oct-24-05 3:24pm

Reason to fish. I often say that fishing is a excuse to be out of doors in scenic locations. Although like you stated I wouldn't turn down a fat hilibut. I have had offers to go on fishing trips where the bite is hot but the location is drap and ugly and opted to fish in some beautiful location only to get skunked.

It's like I say fishing is not what we do, It's who we are.

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Subject: Simply having a respect for nature as indigenous..
Name: Red Fish
Date: Oct-25-05 5:06pm

people do.

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Red Fish

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Subject: Re: Confessions of a reluctant angler ... (longish
Name: surfNturf
Date: Oct-24-05 6:01pm

For me, fishing is solitude, a way to get away from the rat race and sort my thoughts. It makes me feel alive and present on the earth while at the same time making me aware that my time here is limited.

I don't mind a bit taking fish that I'm going to eat, not waste. I will even take one or two fish home for my dogs if I can. They love to eat them and I can tell that it gives them a vigor that they are not getting from eating canned dog food.

When I catch a fish that is undersized or undesirable, I either remove the hook using my fingers or maybe a pair of long nose pliers, or, if that is not possible, I cut the tip off the hook with a large pair of wire cutters. The hook comes right out and back in the water they go.

I think fish are a resource, meant for harvesting, and needing to be respected. And we can and should do both.

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Subject: Fishing is a culmination of things...
Name: mel
Date: Oct-24-05 7:31pm

...and when you catch fish, you get paid off for all of your planning.
It's so nice when you're rewarded for your time and effort that you put in, especially when targeting a certain species. I don't know why it is I'm so "hooked" on fishing, but I don't know what I'd be doing otherwise.

____________
meluvs2fish at yahoo dot com.

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Subject: There's no question why I fish,,,
Name: Lucky Larry
Date: Oct-24-05 9:43pm

When I was a kid (this was more than 40 years ago) we had a cottage on a lake in Michigan. We had a wooden row boat, fished with cane poles, and everything we caught that was legal was cleaned, fried and eaten. I don't think we needed to catch fish to eat but we enjoyed catching them and we enjoyed eating them.

A hundred and fifty years ago my grandfather's grandfather may have needed to catch fish to eat and he probably enjoyed the fishing as well as the eating. Nowadays, if my family wants fish for dinner, it's more likely to come from Whole Foods than from the ocean. But I still like to fish and sometimes I like to eat what I catch. Although I'm glad my family's supper isn't dependant on it.

____________
lscossar@yahoo.com

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Subject: Re: There's no question why I fish,,,
Name: josh
Date: Oct-24-05 10:00pm

Fish lack the nerve center needed to process pain. They do not manifest emotion at the level you and I think of it, although they do have basic emotional states. They are a resource, just like lettuce or cotton. Work to maintain and nurture the resource, enjoy it, and be confident that you are in the right.

You are probably indirectly responsible for the deaths of hundreds or thousands of animals that do feel pain, die slow unhappy deaths after short unhappy lives, and do feel complex emotion - this too is ok, but it's something most people avoid confronting and never come to terms with. Fishing should be the last thing on your mind.

Everybody from time to time will see a fish gasping on a cold pier deck and feel bad for it - this is a comforting reminder that we haven't lost all our empathy and caring - I've thrown back edible fish for no other reason than that I wanted to see them swim away - but on a realistic level, it's pointless.

Do what you are comfortable with, but be sure you have reason to feel the way you do.
 

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Subject: Re: Confessions of a reluctant angler ... (longish
Name: sandpounder
Date: Oct-24-05 10:41pm

Very thoughtful. But only you can judge the benefit/risk that you are creating. Your beliefs are well founded....but, for me, I believe that "respectful fishing", meaning caring for the fish & taking only what you need, is all that is necessary. If MORE fishermen were like you, this great thing we call "fishing" would be better!

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Subject: Re: Confessions of a reluctant angler ... (longish
Name: bigfoot
Date: Oct-24-05 11:21pm
Link: http://upsac-sf.perchy.org

I've been struggling with this for the last few months, and you've really hit it on the head.

I don't really know what to say at this point, I've only recently begun exploring the issue. But yes, lately I've grown uncomfortable with fishing.

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Subject: Re: Confessions of a reluctant angler ... (longish
Name: josh
Date: Oct-25-05 12:55am

Also, you got me thinking about why we fish. There are a lot of things people like doing. What our hobbies are, what we do for fun, these things are the result of a lot of things - our upbringing, our income, what we're exposed to and what our personality is like. Most of these things, whether it be sports, cars, fishing, hunting, hiking, involve an identical set of features: A basic social association with others in your group, a skill set and field of knowlege that is necessary to move up in ability or participation, the opportunity to go out to new places or get away from everyday life, and challenges and risks that reward you if you succeed.

Frankly, I think they are largely interchangable. If I'd grown up in a different family, with a bigger emphasis on sports, or hunting, or dirtbike racing, I'd be doing that. What matters is that those basic features are present. If you tried to get me into competetive poker today, I'd have zero interest. It's hard to think that kind of thing would ever appeal to me. I'm not so sure, though, that at one point it wouldn't.

This can be a very difficult idea to accept - it's a bit hard to think that this thing that you love is no different from everything else. You can say that fishing has things that you know you like - the ocean, the chance to enjoy nature and see exotic sea life up close. I'd wonder if, at one point, those things wouldn't have been that interesting. I think our hobbies dictate our interests as much as our interests dictate our hobbies.

But, enough psychoboredom. This is about the fishing, and I should get to that.

If something about your hobby, fishing in this case, is making you unhappy, I think your interests will shift to accomidate this. You might find something else that has the same elements of a hobby that you like, without the guilt.

I guess what I'm saying is, have you ever tried scuba diving?

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Subject: I may be making up for lost time too?
Name: mel
Date: Oct-25-05 6:30am

My Dad was an avid fisherman. I remember as a child being amazed at the huge stripers he would catch at Ocean Beach (SF) in the surf and huge halibut from Bakers. About 20 years ago I laid down my fishing rods, and pursued other things. My dad passed away almost 10 years ago. I really began to miss him, and about 4 or 5 years ago decided to pick up my fishing rods again. I don't think I'll ever lay them down again. The comfort and solitude that I find when fishing is irreplacable and can not be duplicated by anything else.

____________
meluvs2fish at yahoo dot com.

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Subject: Re: Confessions of a reluctant angler
Name: kenj5
Date: Oct-25-05 8:00am

I "joined" this website a few weeks ago, as a source of good info regarding the hobby/sport that I would like to rejoin after 40 years of "not enough time".
I appreciate the information shared by all of you.
This thread has shown that I am in the company of a group of diverse, thought provoking people...Thank-you!

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Subject: Welcome Aboard!
Name: Rock Hopper
Date: Oct-25-05 9:05am

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Subject: PFIC, 2nd Ed.
Name: Ken Jones
Date: Oct-25-05 8:13am

In a discussion on PETA and anti-fishing groups —

I do, by the way, respect some of the people who reject fishing. Hindus who believe in the concept of ahimsa, believe that no living being (human, animal, fish, bug, etc.) should be injured and strive mightily to avoid such events taking place. It's a religious and moral issue for them and I would never impugn their rights to their beliefs. However, most of the PETA people I've met (Petans?) simply come across as spoiled kids, victims of doublethink who've never had to face the realities of life. (Then again, who knows the reason for their crusade? Perhaps their parents simply smoked a little too much '60s Maui Wowie and they were born brain damaged.)
The morality of fishing is a question which some fishermen never consider, a question quickly rejected by others, and a question which has turned some life-long fishermen into non-fishermen. It may also be a question better left to a book on philosophy, ethics or religion. However, PETA has established a fairly clear war plan against angling and is already working to get many areas declared "fishing free" zones. You may not want to join them but you better understand them.
The ultimate question is of course the following: "What gives humans the right to kill another creature, or to hunt it for sport" -- if we consider angling a form of hunting. The answer for most people is that humans are a superior species on this planet and that lesser animals such as fish are simply one of the cogs in our existence; small fish are eaten by bigger fish which are eaten by even bigger fish, and on and on. That response is of course a Western Civilization response; after all, the Bible teaches us that man shall rule over the Earth (And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea...Genesis, Chapter 1, Verse 26). That response is rejected by some and certainly, it seems, by most Petans. Some others in the anti-fishing fraternity argue that even if humans have the right to dominate lesser species that doesn't mean they should. It's a question individuals have to answer for themselves.

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Subject: I too went through a period of doubt...
Name: Ken Jones
Date: Oct-25-05 8:35am

regarding fishing—back in the early '70s. The question was not could I fish but should I fish. I had become pretty profecient by that time, and was able to catch fish pretty easily, but amidst all the news in the papers regarding declines in the numbers of fish and the environmental reports predicting doom I just wasn't sure if it was the thing to do.

Obviously I resolved my personal doubt on the side of fishing and decided to plunge forward. Today I consider myself an ardent conservationist angler and for the most part I am also a catch and release angler. But, I do not feel there is a moral problem catching fish and/or killing a fish for bait or food. If I believed there was a moral imperative against killing fish I think I would also have to be a vegetarian since it would be the putting to death of another creature that would be the issue. Some say the only issue is they themselves putting a creature (fish) to death but when you think of the millions of creatures raised for the slaughterhouse I think the issue become greater than just personal involvement in the killing. The issue may be moral equivilancy among species. Is the life of a spider equal (in whatever way) to the life of a human? Same for any other species. As mentioned in the book section quoted above some religions teach that there is this equilivancy; most of us reject that thesis. But it's also one of those questions that cannot be answered by science, it can only be answered by the thought process taking place in individual minds. In some ways it is like the question of a soul. There is no proof that humans do indeed have a soul but the mere fact that we are concerned with other species, and are engaged in a discussion such as this would, I argue, be a good indicator that humans do indeed have souls.

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Subject: Re: Confessions of a reluctant angler ... (longish
Name: Green Shark
Date: Oct-25-05 10:04am

Hello to all!

This post is very interesting.

The only fish I really feel bad for that are kept/eaten (except in life/death situations i.e starvation) are the sharks.....................they are apex predators and are vital to the ecosystem.

Ask yourself the following questions......

Would I eat a HAWK?
Would I eat a BEAR CUB?
Would I eat a WOLF?

Then ask yourself.........Would I eat a SHARK?

There are plenty of other tasty fish out there that reproduce more frequently and produce offspring than sharks.

Please C&R all sharks.........

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Subject: Actually I have eaten bear meat.
Name: Ken Jones
Date: Oct-25-05 10:32am

My grandfather used to have a cabin in Mist, Oregon that was surrounded by apple orchards and the bears loved to dine on those apples. One bear got a little too comfortable and finally had to be shot. We had bear meat (hamburger) that was somewhat sweet, probably due to the apples.

As for bear cub meat, no, I've never had it. But bear cub meat would probably be more tender than adult bear meat and if we used the slot approach for bears as we do for some fish, it would make more sense to kill a cub than a reproducing adult. Right?

As for your question/supposition, personally I think it is hard to say it's OK to eat one fish but not another. True we all have our favorites, and some reproduce differently than others, but they are still fish.

I'm reminding of a time when Pierhead caught a bat ray in Morro Bay and gave it away only to later regret it forever. That bat ray had looked up at Boyd with its Bette Davis eyes (which are unlike most fish) and it was the last time he fished for a bat ray. I know how he felt having seen a few of those eyes myself but also feel that every fish should be given respect—even the lowly bullheads and throw-em-backs. Each fish serves its place in nature and while we should recognize and respect that fact we do not need to glamorize it.

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Subject: We may be evolving toward non-fisherman...
Name: Lucky Larry
Date: Oct-25-05 12:21pm

What I was trying to say in my earlier post in this thread is that we are changing, slowly, from a race of hunter-gatherers to other means of food production. Within the span of several generations we have gone from reliance on fishing for sustanance to fishing becoming more of a pastime. In some of us the instinct to fish is still very strong. Those who question the morality of fishing only have the luxury of doing so because of the advances in out technology, etc. As time goes by the instinct in people to catch fish may disappear. As many have said in this thread, it's up to each individual to decide for themselves and respect the decisions of others.

____________
lscossar@yahoo.com

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Subject: Nah, we're still killers and meat eaters at heart.
Name: Ken Jones
Date: Oct-25-05 12:38pm

We just don't like to admit it.

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Subject: Sorry, but I refuse to evolve! ;-)
Name: StripeSideChaser
Date: Oct-25-05 1:21pm

As long as I can make fire and spear animals, why would I want to change?

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I fish, therefore I lie!

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