View Full Version : Keep or Release????

01-31-2006, 04:47 PM
I would like to hear from those who fish the Park waters. *Catch & Release or Keep to Eat? *Do you always C&R or sometimes C&R? *What determines wheather you put 'em back?

The only time I keep 'em is when I'm camping and having trout for supper that night; otherwise I put 'em back for the next time.

Would like to read your approach & reasoning. Do you keep the big ones or just the pan sized?

01-31-2006, 05:13 PM
I'm a 99% catch and release, but like you, when I'm camping or backpacking, there is nothing better than a couple of trout, in some foil with lemon pepper and olive oil over an open fire to take the place of those dehydrated meals after a few days.

02-01-2006, 06:37 PM
This is a hot potato and it can get ugly. I have been doing 100% c/r the last ten years or so. I am starting to have doubts. I know from biological sources that these creeks in the mountains have very low nutrient levels and therefore produces a stunted population due to overpopulation. The same thing happens in a lot of cold lakes up north with pan fish such as yellow perch. If you remove some of the smaller ones you actually enhances the fishery. More chance for the remaining fish to grow. If you take only the big ones away you might do more harm. In other words slot limits might help. I.e. keep 6" to 8" fish and no kill on the other sizes. The problem is that it's hardly worhwhile to clean and cook a small fish and you don't want to catch fish just to trash.

On another note: It has to my knowledge become a big political debate over in Europe if it is ethichal or not to play a fish to near exhaustion just for the fun of it and then release that fish to maybe death and or suffering. This is not PETA stuff. This debate is raging among noted fly fisherman both in Scandinavia and England. They are basically questioning the whole Lee Wulff thing about the game fish (you get the picture). I have to say it kind of get you thinking. Why do we fish? I understand the whole concept of enjoying the sport but does make you think about it. I know for a fact that many people play their fish way too long in warm water and or abuse em in other ways. Letting them flop around on rocks etc. I'm not trying to be holier than thou on this but I have seen this happening. I once got a fish on a mountain stream hooke real bad and I got the hook out but the fish was bleeding. Sure enough it died soon after that. In this particular instance I had to release the fish due to size reg. Still that was a fish that died needlessley. Enough of my ranting. I do feel mixed about this and I belong to Trout Unlimited and FF. They both advocate Cr and FF more so than TU. It's kind of hard to be a member of these organisations and then throw back fish that probably won't make it. Please don't take this the wrong way keep it civile I'm just interested in healthy debate. Like I said I c/r 100% but I'm thinking about keeping some fish especially on tailwaters. Opinions anyone?

David Knapp
02-01-2006, 08:24 PM
Interesting topic... I always catch and release personally. That said, I definately think that keeping a couple of fish is not a problem. As said in the previous post, there is a definite overpopulation in the mountain streams. Anyone who has fished the Smokies for many years can tell you that the fish are larger after flood years. Why? because the floods cause lower survival among the young fish, allowing the other fish to grow larger.

Something that bothers me is the people that release but don't respect the fish. I was fishing this last spring for Apache trout in a mountain lake in Arizona. Several people were there catching a lot of fish. One guy was catching a lot, but when he would "release" the fish, he threw them back, literally. Soon there were the tell-tale floaters around where the guy was fishing. I was fishing with a kid and carefully used it as a lesson to show him why we are gentle with the fish we release. After that, he was very careful how he let the fish go. If we are going to release, we need to be careful to not kill the fish playing it. Now if we could just get everyone being as careful :( ::) ::) 8-)!


02-01-2006, 10:01 PM
Catch and Release 100%. *For the last 5 years or so, 90% of my fishing takes place in the Park. *Just as previous responders, I see so many people mistreating fish in the park that I am more comfortable releasing my catches. *Another reason is I don't eat fish. *No particular reason why, I just don't eat them. *

After a catch, I try to net them as quickly as I can (especially in hot weather), handle them as little as possible, and make sure they are "oxygenated" before I allow them to swim off. *When I do not use a net, I always wet my hand(s) before handling and try never to scrape them against anything that may remove the film. *This is my way of trying to preserve the most important participant of a sport that has amazed yet beWILDered me at the same time. *

Good topic for discussion. *I look forward to keeping up with the responses to this thread.

02-01-2006, 11:24 PM
100% catch and release...admire them for a second or two, then gently ease them back in.

I figure if they were gullible enough to be caught by such a lousy fisherman as I, then maybe they'll give me the pleasure again someday! ;)

Spring is just around the corner; my best flyfishing wishes to all, C&R or not.

02-02-2006, 12:37 AM
Ok here it goes lets see if I can be graceful. I do almost, nearly always practice C&R BUT, I do sometimes keep a trout or two. They will always be stocker bow. Never a brown or for god's sake a Smallmouth, they have a special place in my heart. If I fish a state stocked section of stream in VA I will keep a few, it is put and take water. So if I don't keep it the next crawler drowner will. I have the view that thos fish are put there for that purpose. I shoudl be able to get in on the eatin' too. Also I fish the Holston alot. When they put those pesky little bows in there I do my part to keep a few and get them outta the way. I know todays dink is tomorow trophy. BUt I agree with overpopulated streams are worse than under for size matters. I won't keep the fish unlesss I can fry them that evening, won't freeze them. I also only keep 2 to 3 size depending. My wife won't eat them so I am only feeding myself. This reminds me of a story. I was on the Holston and was whacking those little bows, I decided to keep a few so I broke off a ol stick for a stringer and went to hanging them right before I left. On the trail on the way out I passed a local guide with a client. He said "huh looks like you had a good day" in my best snotty voice. He acted like they were his fish. I kinda got ticked, I said "ya should have kept the other 30 or so I caught"! I know that was wrong, but the Holsotn is full of fish and my few to eat a couple or three times a year isn't going to kill it. Oh well running in circles better let it go now!


02-02-2006, 09:36 AM
Catch and release is a dangerous thing. It makes us forget the point of fishing. Fishing is a blood sport, and we are predators. To believe any different is wrong. This doesn't mean that I keep every fish I catch, but I could keep a limit every time I fished and not feel bad about it; in fact, it might be pleasant. I would however get complaints from home because my wife would get tired of fish. The story you recount of the "snooty" guide is foolish, but it is also foolish to act like there are some species too good to keep. The reason we enjoy fishing is the same reason cats love killing. We are predators.

There is plenty of science to support some killing and some catch and release, but we don't need to rationalize something so visceral. Eating is what we do as apex predators. Now don't get me wrong, I don't care if some of you have evolved beyond your predatory nature; I have not ;)

Rog 1
02-02-2006, 10:57 AM
The references to the effect of over populating these streams is true and I have seen the proof. Besides the plus side of flood effects I have seen what a forced harvest can do to a stream. As part of the Parks brookie restoration effort they tried to fish out Tremont one year. They removed the size and creel limits on rainbows and browns and required all who fished the river to keep all trout other than brookies. Prior to this most of the fish caught above the forks were generally 6-7" on average. The next year the fishing was unbelievable and most fish were in the 8 inch range. The last couple of times I have fished up above the cascades there were a lot of those little 5-6" bows. I spent most of my childhood summers roaming these mountains following my grandfather and uncle while they fished. I have enjoyed many a meal of those small , sweet fish. This was also during a time when there was a stocking program in the park...the hatchery used to be at the Chimney's picnic area. I do not see where an occasional couple of fish kept to eat is a matter of life or death for these streams. What I think has had a bigger impact on the fishing is the budget restraints on the Park service which has made rule enforcement almost non-existant.

02-02-2006, 01:56 PM
I am curious on how good the fish are to eat with such a high acidity in the water. I am a big believer in C&R just because if I want trout, salmon, whatever I can get it pre cut from the store. Not only that I get farm raised fish which is not subjected to so many pollutants that are in our waters. My friends wife works for a group that studies the bacteria in our local waters and its not a pretty thing.

There is a guy I fish with who keeps everything he catches. Granted he eats everything he catches or gives it to someone. I personally just like catching the fish and letting it go so someone else can catch em.

02-02-2006, 03:24 PM
I enjoy the taste of trout. Therefore I will keep some. I practice catch and release 99% of the time. But I have been known to keep a few and take them home to smoke them. Or if I am out camping or backpacking I will keep a couple then. I have released all trophy size fish I have caught, and I don't eat Browns.

I think catching of trout, cleaning of trout and knowing how to prepare trout can be good life lessons. A survival skill if you will. it is also a good reminder how we are all part of a large food chain in this world.

In the end, it is all about personal preference.

As far as bacteria and acidity of water. Who knows. Where does the water come from that your farm raised trout live in? Most hatcheries I have seen are off chutes and use the same stream water of a near by creek. They say not to eat a lot of fish out of our lakes. But I have known old timers that have been eating catfish and other critters all of their lives out of those lakes and rivers. They are in better shape than a lot of people whom supposedly eat a more healthy diet.

I will eat a wild trout over a store stocker any day. The meat is better overall. Looks better, has a better consistency, and is pink. A trout that has been fed trout chow all of its life tastes like trout chow, to me.

Petey 8-)

Rog 1
02-02-2006, 04:40 PM
Several years ago my young son and I were on trip to the Park before school started. I had kept several fish for a dinner and my son who was mostly spinner fishing at that time wanted to fish Gatlinburg for some of thos "big" fish. Well, he got one that was at least 12 inches long and of course he wanted to eat his fish that night. Good opportunity to teach him how to handle, clean and cook a fish. Upon cleaning the stocker I was shocked...the flesh was noticeably softer and the organs were milking and opaque compared to the wild fish's firm pink flesh and clear organs. He was happy to eat his fish but not me....now he looks at the pond raised trout in the cooler at the store and turns up his nose at them. As with any fish the younger, smaller fish seem to eat better than the larger ones. I have been sampling the trout from the Park waters almost yearly for the last 50 years and cannot tell any difference in taste. I now consider such fare a rare treat and always place the hogs back into the gene pool. More than the acid rain affecting the water is the pollution from carless hikers/campers and feral pigs. Gone are the days when I used to fish with my grandfather and remember following his lead and dipping a collapsible cup into wherever we were fishing to take a cool drink of stream water and comtemplate our next presentation.

02-02-2006, 06:16 PM
Good conversation so far. What do you all think about the future for our sport considering the debate that is now going on in Europe about C/R?

Secondly, I too feel that the mountain fish would be healthier to eat than most of the foods found in the grocery store. Most of our food in the grocery store is full of chemicals and hormones, and all kinds of pollutants and pests. Also, red meat is about the worst we can eat. Sorry got to go, I craving a burger ;D

Seriously, Interesting topic although complicated philosophically.

02-06-2006, 09:40 AM
Catch and release most of the time. Occasionally keep a couple for eating. Most of the time when I C&R I don't even touch the fish or bring it out of the water, unless it's bigger than average. I use a barbless hook so all I do is use my forceps to grab the hook shank and twist it out of the mouth. The hook comes right out and most of the time the fish just stays in the same spot until I "shoo" it away!


02-16-2006, 08:47 PM
I usually C/R but,if a fish looks like it won't survive I will keep it for the table. If I am hungry for trout I will keep some of the smaller ones for eating. Usually about three 8-12 inchers are enough for me! I would guess that I eat about 10 percent of the fish I catch. I do the same when I am fishing the lakes in East TN.