Capt Tris Nov - Dec 2009 Fishing Report
“Catch and Release” - well that’s easy enough to say.
It even has a nice ring to it. And what a great approach to fishing - what a great way to be ‘environmentally aware’ at a time when the significance of “going green” carries so much weight in both business and everyday life.
I applaud those of you on the Treasure Coast and elsewhere who, derive pleasure from our sport and leave a very small footprint in your wake. Everyone needs to follow suit as best they can but it’s not as easy as it sounds.
There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that a huge element in most fishing effort is a combination of the ‘fulfillment of a successful hunt’ and the ability to ‘come home with the beef… whoops, I mean fish! It is a basic tenant of human psyche that prompts us to heed an instinctive urge to provide dinner for the table. The satisfaction this creates in many of us is a little bit silly in a day and age when there is a fresh fish market in every town and a great steak to be purchased at the nearest grocery or butcher shop. Yes, I do agree with you that there is nothing like fresh fish, caught and prepared for the table after a fun day on the water. Nevertheless, the compulsion to provide, not release, is alive and well in the hearts and minds of most fishermen.
Although part of the equation is essentially out of our hands with the multitude of new regulations the National Marine Fisheries Service and it’s step-child the South Atlantic Council are placing on both commercial and recreational catches along Florida’s Treasure Coast (and elsewhere), it is still imperative for all of us to address our fishing effort in fashion that recognizes that our fish stocks truly are a limited resource. Succinctly put : “Too many people, not enough fish…catch and release”!
It’s a fact that certain species are more vulnerable to overfishing than others and that the slow growing grouper population deserves special consideration. I’m not so sure that the federal government has it figured out as well as they say, but it is a fact that some fish (grouper for one), have a long life span, grow more slowly than other fish, & reach sexual maturity later in their lives. New regulations are likely to eliminate any choice in this fishery but an awareness of their vulnerability is an important step toward assuring that our grandchildren won’t have to rely on imported grouper for dinner in years to come.
On the other hand, dolphin/mahi mahi grow rapidly, reach sexually maturity at 4-5 months and have a life span of only 4-5 yrs. This seems to be working out well for both anglers and ‘the dolphin population’ which is not considered to be threatened by current fishing pressure. With dolphin limits set at ten fish per person, here is a chance for the individual fisherman to exercise good judgement and implement ‘catch and release’. When you find yourself in the thick of it this winter and the schoolies are thick behind your boat, reflect a moment on what you are about to do. Then let the slaughter begin!
Just kidding, but you see what I’m getting at. We all do it on occasion. It’s a hoot but not really appropriate. Catch a few for dinner, one for the freezer if you must and one for your n
eighbor if you really want to clean it for him. Make a deal with the 3 & 4lb fish; leave them alone and have them promise to come back our way next spring when they will be 10-15 pounders and will test your knot tying skill as well as your gaffing acumen.
The other obvious effort for catch and release this winter will be our sailfish bite. I know that most of you have no intention of keeping a sail. Those of you who take them home to smoke are exercising ’free choice’ but I encourage you to smoke a kingfish instead. The majesty and enjoyment derived from doing battle with a sail on light tackle far outweighs the joy in a chunk of smoked fish. I also encourage all of you to think twice before taking advantage of that ‘photo op’. If the battle has been an extended one and your sailfish is tired and discolored, leave it in the water. Holding him upright alongside the boat and trolling him slowly for as long as it takes to regain his strength can make all the difference. Releasing an exhausted sailfish is an exercise in futility. He will let you know when he’s strong enough to swim on his own. Please take the time to revive him!
Our winter months provide Treasure Coast anglers with some of the best fishing anywhere in the US. Large schools of kingfish abound on the offshore bar in 85’- 90’ of water. Significant numbers of December sails and dolphin in 80’-350’ will be found on weedlines, color changes, temperature variations, floating debris and tidal rips. Keep an eye out for any of these conditions as you progress offshore. It’s easy to overshoot the fish and deeper water is not always the key to success.