On Wednesday morning we smashed a bunch of bass off the top - nothing big, but whenever a fish takes surface lures I find it hugely exciting, so of course we went back early on Thursday morning to see if we might nail a few more. For some reason the fishing yesterday ended up nowhere near as good as the day before (lightening never strikes twice ?), but what essentially ruined it for me was when Mark and I got down to our chosen spot to find an angler sitting there with three dead bass lying on the rocks next to him - and two of those very dead bass were very, very undersize. The third one might have just scraped in there, but crumbs did it look small to me as well. It looked like this bloke had been there bait fishing all night, and as much as an angler is within their right to take fish to eat (something which I am categorically not against if done in moderation, but I don't personally like eating fish), coming across this act of stupidity/ignorance/callous disregard for bass size limits or whatever it actually was really got to me.
As we got onto the rocks I immediately said to the angler that he had killed at least two undersized bass. Everything was said nice and calmly and there was no aggression from anybody - I believe the angler said something along the lines of "I thought the size limit was 36cms" - which it is in the rest of the UK, but it's actually 37.5cm in Cornwall - pretty sure this is correct. My reply of course was "but the two smallest fish are not even 1lb in weight and they are way under the size limit." No answer as you can guess. This angler had all the relevant bottom fishing gear and I am going to presume that he also knew full well the bass he had killed were undersize. I did not get anywhere with the bloke and I doubt my intervention was going to make the blindest bit of difference to how he behaved in the future, but one thing I could not do was to walk on by and pretend those weren't dead undersized bass lying on the rocks.
Now there are many things that I could rant about here - any angler with half a clue knows that the minimum landing size (MLS) for bass at 36cms is a farce for example. The fact that in reality an angler is not remotely concerned about getting caught and then punished for killing and keeping undersized bass - tell me otherwise, but it ain't going to happen here in the UK. Have any of you ever been stopped and checked by anybody ? But what bothers me the most is that an angler has done what he has done and seems not in the least bit concerned, bothered or worried - that we came across him having done wrong, that there's nothing I am aware of that we could have done in reality (effing and blinding won't get anybody anywhere in this kind of situation), and that this angler felt that it was just fine to kill juvenile fish in the first place. As I alluded to a while back in another Friday Rant, is it simply in our nature to ruin everything ?
I am not going to try and pretend to you that I am utterly convinced every single fish I catch and then release swims off to then lead a long and healthy life. I sure hope so, but the very act of sticking hooks into a fish, dragging them ashore or aboard and then unhooking and releasing must produce a certain mortality rate - I don't know what, but at the end of the day we are anglers and we fish for sport, but many of us do all we can to practise catch and release in the hope that it must do some good. We can argue until we are blue in the face that fishing is what we do and that's just the way it is, but at the end of the day we are on tricky ground if it comes to an out and out argument based purely on ethics and nothing else. But I am an angler and I believe that my going fishing has to be based somehow in mankind's inherent hunter gatherer instinct - which seems daft considering I don't eat fish, but for all that the modern world tries to nullify how we once used to live, I feel perfectly comfortable with going fishing for sport. But I then believe that as anglers we have to try and do the right thing and all help to make our wonderful sport look as good as possible. In fishing just as in life there are always going to be narrow-minded idiots who don't deserve to be called anglers, but you can't help hoping that (all) people who fish are perhaps good people who are that bit closer to the natural world than other people who don't go fishing. Of course I accept that my somewhat pie in the sky feelings are not very realistic when you take into account some aspects of human nature, but surely it is not beyond the realms of decency to return juvenile fish back to the sea so that they at least have half a chance of reaching sexual maturity and then breeding ?
I have zero interest in the "we anglers have no impact when you compare it to what a trawler brings in etc." (blah, blah, blah). It's a pathetic attempt at blaming other people instead of looking at our sport and how we ourselves behave in the cold light of day. We are anglers and we jointly have vested interests in rivers, lakes and oceans. We may not be able to actually stop idiots like that guy from yesterday morning killing those undersize bass (in the UK anyway, unless you know otherwise), but the least we can do is to voice our displeasure and keep on trying to inform, educate and encourage people that it is categorically not the way forward.............