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Ronan's report

Sunday October 9th 2011

There was a massive wild brown trout caught not too far from here, shortly before the season ended. Over nine pounds. It was, as the locals say, "chapped on the heed" and taken back to the dock.

The captor didn't really want to take the fish home, and I understand that the carcass has been saved from being turned into cat food, and will now be set up and hung on the wall at the fishery.

Now I'm not going to get judgemental or emotional about this: it was his fish, the captor was acting within the fishery rules, and it probably wasn't the only leviathan in the water in question.

Actually, sod it, no.

Judgemental and emotional is exactly what I'm going to get. Killing that fish was wrong. It was a waste. It was a crying shame; an act of selfishness and self-aggrandisement. This was a missed opportunity, for the angler, for the fishery, and for angling in general.

Big wild fish are high profile. They're the ones we see in pictures and hear about in stories. Every time there's an exceptional big wild fish killed it tells the casual observer:

a) We don't care about the fish we catch
b) We either don't care about the waters we fish, or that we think that all is rosy in the piscatorial garden, and that no one else should be bothered either.
c) If I catch a big one, it's OK for me to chap it too.

Yes, I know we can rationalise it away: "It was only one fish Ð a drop in the ocean", "We should be more worried about pollution, commercial fishing, etc".

How many times? How many times do you need to hear the words "yeah, the fishing used to be great hereÉ"? How many times do we need to undermine our "stewards of the environment" arguments with the wider public? How many times?

As long as we need to (rightly) criticise commercial fishing, fish farming, polluters, and other threats to the environment, we need to be seen to behave responsibly in our own back yard. Routinely killing all the big fish is not doing that.

Anglers should be educated to treasure wild fish and return exceptional specimens. Fishery managers should work to severely limit the number of wild fish removed by anglers, legislating where necessary. The angling press should not publish pictures of big dead fish and should try to select pictures of fish being returned wherever possible.


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