Ethics in angling, it’s catching
From Bank Notes*

By Jon Rasmussen - April 1, 2002
During a recent conversation we started talking about the ethics practiced by ourselves and other anglers we know. Although most fishermen adhere to the rules and regulations set forth by the Department of Natural Resources, there are always a few who try to get around the laws. These are the fishermen who seem to catch the attention of the media and general public. To provide a positive image for our sport, we need to do what is right and teach young anglers to do the same. By doing what is right we don't just mean staying inside the law or other rules we have to fish under. For the good of our sport we must try to stay squeaky clean. Nothing so motivates our detractors like a good story of some slob cheating or breaking the law while on the water.

We as sportsmen have always been at the forefront of the conservation movement. We recognize that here are other groups out there that scramble around trying to attract attention, but the fact remains that the majority of the money that goes to protecting and maintaining our natural resources comes from sportsmen. The only problem is that some sportsmen don't do their part to take care of the outdoors we share, is what separates the weekend fisherman from an ethical angler. An ethical angler goes out of their way to preserve the places they fish and to promote fishing by getting kids into the sport and teaching them also to be ethical anglers. Here's what you can do to be an ethical angler yourself.

  1. When you leave a fishing spot, leave it cleaner than you found it. Not everyone cares about the places we fish. Cleaning up behind them helps make all fishermen look better.
  2. When other anglers are on a spot, have the courtesy to allow them to enjoy catching fish. Fish a respectable distance away until they move on.
  3. Handle all fish with care. They are the lifeblood of our sport. Without them we would loose our favorite pastime. The fish you release today might someday be your grandchild's trophy.
  4. Always be willing to help out other fishermen. If you see a fellow angler of any age in need, give them a hand. Help from a successful fisherman is always appreciated; you might just find a new fishing buddy.
  5. At the end of the day's fishing take only what you will eat. Leave some for others to enjoy.
  6. Treat every fish as a sport fish. Even if you consider a particular species to be less than desirable, there are others who enjoy catching those fish. This is especially true for kids. What young angler isn't excited to catch a 20 LB+ carp or a mess of bullheads?
  7. Always respect the rights of property owners. Make sure you have permission to be on private property. When fishing around docks or on private property remember to pick up after yourself and others. You will have a much better chance of being allowed back.
  8. Be very careful with the trophy fish you catch. If you don't plan on taking it to the taxidermist, snap a few photos and carefully let it go. Trophy fish are so much more than just a couple of fillets.
  9. Never stop learning about fishing in general and the specific fishing you do Knowledge will not only improve your fishing know-how, but will allow you to help other anglers who may be less skilled than yourself. An educated angler is an effective angler.
  10. Teach a kid to fish There is no better way to promote the sport than to open up the angling world to a new angler. Kids are the future of our sport. Whether they are a relative's or neighbors we must give them an opportunity to experience firsthand the excitement fishing has to offer. With all the diversions facing today's kids many of them will never have the opportunity to experience our sport firsthand. If we don't pass on what we know to the next generation of anglers, our sport will suffer in the future.
  11. We all know that the various natural resources agencies everywhere are terribly short on manpower, when you're fishing have the integrity to do what is right, even when no one is looking. The laws are there to provide for the future of the sport.
  12. Remember, when you're out fishing the rest of the public doesn't see you as an individual. They view you as a fisherman. Your actions reflect on all of us.
  13. Take the time to enjoy our great sport. If you don't, then why fish?
When all is said and done, the fact remains that the footing of our sport for tomorrow depends on the steps we take to preserve it today. The steps we take today should be small enough so that a child can follow in the footsteps, the future of our sport truly does rest in the hands of a child. Take one fishing and you'll be someone they look up to, no matter where life takes them. "Many of the most highly publicized events of my presidency are not nearly as memorable or significant in my life as fishing with my daddy," - Jimmy Carter. Will anyone remember fishing with you?
Author Jon Rasmussen
Jon Rasmussen
Jon Rasmussen is a native of Menasha, Wisconsin but his job as a U.S. Navy journalist has taken him all over the country. His work has appeared in Midwest Outdoors, North American Fisherman and Badger Sportsman. Jon is also a Wisconsin editor for Midwest Outdoors and member of the U.S. Match Fishing Team, participating in national and international events.