Regarding the matter of catch and release fishing.
History tells that in the beginning, we fished.
And it has been noted that certain people fished with nets and spears, but others fished with a pole, string, hook, bobber, and bait, lures, and yea, even flies. We who fished were called anglers, our tools were called tackle, we ate the fish we caught, and this was good.
As the millennia rolled by, we sought at first to catch more and larger fish with refined tackle, and generally continued to eat our catch. Until came such time as we caught so many fish of such proportion that we could not eat them all, even if disbursed among deck-hands, relatives, and entire villages. So we disposed or our gargantuan catch on river banks, buried in flower gardens, or fed to livestock. This was accepted practice, but did not seem a savory practice and gnawed at our conscience.
Time slipped by, until one angler grabbed a fish by the tail, prepared to launch it uphill into the riverside brush, but instead, the fish wrenched free and slipped back into the water. The angler gave little thought to this, caught another fish and failed once again to propel the fish into the air, as had always been done before that day. Apparently, the story goes, this hapless angler suffered from a weak grip, and allowed fish after fish to slip away back into the waters.
At twilight, our storied angler wandered into the Blue Ribbon Tavern in West Yellowstone, to drink ale while conversing with many fellow patrons about the day of losing many fish. But what with English being English, and ale being ale – the many patrons perceived stories of loosing fish rather than losing fish, and so assumed that the loosing was deliberate when in fact the angler had been accidentally losing fish.
This most curious evening at the Blue Ribbon Tavern thus started what was eventually to become the deliberate world-wide act of catch-and-release fishing, a new means of disposing of vast numbers of fish never intended to be eaten but rather caught to provide amusement and recreation for the angler.
This newly adopted practice of catch and release fishing was at first lauded as humane, conservation-minded, and vastly superior to catch-and-kill angling. And truth be told, catch and release fishing did indeed offer both fish and angler the opportunity to play another day. This is because many of the fish released did in fact survive the experience, as did the angler, and so both had the opportunity to either be caught or to catch, as was possible on the part of the fish or the angler, and thus was born the possibility of repeated catching ad releasing of larger and larger fish, to the delight of the angler and some reaction of unknown nature to the fish.
But as time went on, and the practice of catch and release fishing spread, anglers realized that circumstances of the environment sometimes caused the fish to die after release anyway, making the practice all for naught, except perhaps for salving the conscience of the angler who was doing much catching and releasing and thinking that the fish were not dying when in fact they were dying anyway.
And so it came to pass also that certain people concerned with prevention of cruelty to animals took notice of catch and release fishing and began serious debate regarding whether this practice was perhaps not so kind to the fish, and might perhaps represent a form of self-delusion on the part of the angler. If the tide was turned, these animal-rights persons argued, how many anglers would want to have a hook jammed in their mouth, forced to run around the city until too tired to resist, and then unceremoniously tossed back on the subway in a state of exhaustion?
But this was a debate of conscience not much entertained by more than a handful of anglers – many chose to compartmentalize such thinking, many dismissed the ideas outright, but a few were troubled and conflicted by the thought.
And as we stand here this very day, the ethical questions regarding catch and release fishing have yet to be resolved, as is the case regarding ethical treatment of organic chicken stix, wild reared hamburger, and rainforest pepperoni.
So there you have it.