History and Application of Catch-and- Release Fishing: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
G. C. Radonski
The steering committee of the National Symposium on Catch and Release in Marine Recreational Fisheries requested that I address the “nongovernment” view of how catch and release is working in marine fisheries, both as a conservation ethic and as a fisheries management tool. A second issue I wish to discuss is whether the application of catch and release, as a management concept, is more difficult for marine anglers to buy into than it is for freshwater anglers. To accomplish this assignment, I would like to go through the genesis of catch and release as a conservation ethic and management tool before discussing application to marine recreational fisheries.
In A History of Angling, Charles F. Waterman devotes a chapter to the first sport fishermen (Waterman 1981). The chapter goes into detail identifying the classic literature and its authors, as early as A.D. 995. Waterman concludes that, “Anything we know about early sport fishing was written by people who may have been authors first and fishermen second. Thus, our most famous fishermen were not necessarily the best or most informed anglers of their time, but simply the most literarily inclined.” The early angler-authors were aristocrats or clergy, who, it seems, had leisure time to fish for pleasure, rather than subsistence, and were literate. References to fishing ethics by early authors included respecting private property, closing gates, and releasing young fish. Waterman also noted, “Through most of the early writings runs a familiar theme of how the fishing waters had been reduced and the number of fishermen had been increased until the good old days seemed to be gone forever. Therefore, 20th century sportsmen feeling put upon by over-pressured water can at least find kindred feelings in the anglers of hundreds of years ago” (Waterman 1981).