As I have been documenting for awhile at Activist Angler, the anti-fishing movement now is focusing on building public sentiment against catch-and-release in its non-ending battle to keep us from fishing. The tactic already has worked in parts of Europe, as I revealed in Fishing for Sport Viewed as Cruel by Growing Number of People.
It is part of a divide-and-conquer strategy. First, go after catch-and-release anglers, who make up the majority of those who fish. Then go after the few remaining who fish for food; they will be much easier to eliminate.
In general, Americans overwhelmingly approve of fishing. But sadly, when people are asked whether they approve of recreational fishing for sport, answers change dramatically. Twenty-five to 30 percent view angling for sport as cruel in more urbanized states such as Colorado and Arizona, while about 20 percent feel the same way in more rural states, including Alaska and the Dakotas.
And that brings me to the latest development, a book entitled The Quest for the Golden Trout: Environmental Loss and America’s Iconic Fish by Douglas Thompson.
According to an article in The Courant, Thompson, who gave up fly fishing for trout in 1996 because he could no longer justify it on ethical or environmental grounds, sees catch-and-release, where anglers return a caught fish to a river to be caught another day, as unjustifiable.
"I understand the pragmatic decision to leave the fish in the river, but how respectful is it to torment an animal just for fun?" he asks. Fishing "is not in any way fun for fish."
What would a ban on catch-and-release in the United States mean?
It would mean that a majority of the nation’s more than licensed 30 million anglers would stop fishing.
It would mean an end to family outings and buddy tournaments, and depressurizing for a few hours after work at a local lake or pond.
It would mean the collapse of economies for coastal communities and cities along the Great Lakes, as well as hundreds of towns near popular inland lakes and reservoirs.
In the United States, more people fish than play golf and tennis combined, and, in doing so, they support more than one million jobs.
Through license fees and excise taxes, recreational anglers contribute $1.2 billion annually “to preserve, protect, and enhance not just their sport, but also the environment that makes such sportfishing possible,” the American Sportfishing Association says. “Across much of the country, angler dollars are the primary source for improving fish habitat, public access, and environmental education.”
All that could be gone if we allow a minority who believe fishing is cruel to dominate the conversation and dictate policy.