Don’t Bring a Knife to a Gun Fight
We owe it to the fish to be responsible anglers and choose a rod weight that is able to properly handle the intended species of fish. It always amazes me that anglers will take to social media channels and other forms of communication to boast about intentionally targeting and catching a steelhead (or other large species of fish) on exceptionally light weight gear/tackle. In my opinion, purposely targeting larger fish on extremely light rods is extremely irresponsible to the fish and is no reason for celebration.
Targeting fish with undersized rods and equipment causes a great amount of undue stress on the fish during the fight. I completely understand the “thrill of the fight” and the sense of accomplishment that is gained by landing large fish on light tackle – but the feeling of self gratification should not be greater than our sense of responsibility.
Here is an excerpt from a study conducted by the Rhode Island Sea Grant: Fish that are caught and released may die for several reasons, but the two primary causes are stress and wounding. Stress results from the fish fighting after being hooked. Internally, the physical exertion causes an oxygen deficit in the tissues, forcing the muscles to function anaerobically (without oxygen). This causes lactic acid to build up in the muscle tissue, and then to diffuse into the blood. Lactic acid acts as an acid in the blood, causing the pH of the blood to drop. Even slight changes in pH can cause major disruptions of the metabolic processes, ultimately killing the fish. If the fish is quickly released, its blood pH usually returns to normal and the fish will be unaffected. Some fish, after a long tow, may appear to live once released, but the imbalance in the blood chemistry may kill them as late as three days after being caught. In most cases, the means of preventing this type of mortality is to not keep the fish in action for a long period of time, unless the intent is to keep it.
Sometimes an incidental catch happens – once in a while a steelhead may linger in the river longer than others and surprise an angler targeting trout, it happens. However, in those situations where we are going out for big fish, please consider your gear and make sure that proper consideration is given to landing the fish as quickly and safely as possible. Also, remember just because you saw a fish swim away and it “looked fine” doesn’t mean that it will survive.