The Effect of Catch and Release Fishing on Bass Populations
Before competitive bass fishing became a highly publicized sporting event, people generally fished for food – not pleasure – and caught only what they could eat. There was never a second thought or consideration as to whether or not a fish that ended up on the line should be taken home and eaten for supper.
However, as more and more fisherman took up bass fishing as a sport, the question of what should be done with the fish arose. It didn't seem right for anyone to catch so many fish each day if there would be no way to eat them all – not to mention the fact that with so many people enjoying recreational bass fishing, the supply of bass would surely decline unless preventative measures were taken.
The practice of catch and release fishing in the United States was born out of necessity to lower costs associated with stocking trout in Michigan in 1952. Those sport fishermen who were fishing either for fun or competition took to the idea, and with the increase of fishing across the nation the, idea took hold across the country. Today, state-specific legislation regulates how many fish can be caught and kept and which need to be released. However, the practice of catch and release fishing is not without its drawbacks and criticisms.
One of the problems associated with catch and release fishing is the controversy over whether or not fish can feel the pain and distress of the hook entering their mouths. Animal rights activists claim that with the growing popularity of sports like bass fishing, growing numbers of fish are hurt or injured each year for nothing more than "sport." This has caused a lot of debate in recent years about catch and release fishing and its possible cruelty to animals.
The effect on the overpopulation of bass species is a far more immediate effect that catch and release fishing has on both the sport of bass fishing and the question of whether or not the practice should continue. One of the controlling factors of fish populations are the fishermen – with most of them taken out of the equation, the number of fish that remain in the population could grow exponentially. For example, if you have many fishermen releasing their fish and rarely taking any home for a meal, then all of the fish put back into the water still have the chance to spawn and live.
If fish in a certain area become overpopulated, this can affect the health and size of the fish. Of course, there are other mitigating factors that control fish population, including other predators and environmental conditions. Overfishing is more of a problem than overpopulation in some areas – in these cases, catch and release programs enable a sustainable fish population to thrive. While there is no easy answer or solution to the possible problems that could arise from catch and release fishing, it still seems to be the best alternative until a better solution arrives.