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Fishing For A Meal

By Bob Jensen - April 1, 2006
Anglers across the Midwest are starting to get the urge to go fishing. They're looking forward to feeling a tug on their line, and many of those anglers are also looking forward to a meal of freshly caught fish.

A meal of fresh fish is a good thing. Most folks will agree that fresh fish are tasty in a good way, and, when prepared correctly, fish are good for our health. There's nothing wrong with keeping a few fish to enjoy on the supper table. The key is, we need to keep the right fish. Here are some ideas on keeping fish.

In many areas of the Midwest, fishing is as good as it ever has been. In some bodies of water, the opportunity to catch a trophy is better now than it was twenty years ago.

However, there are some trouble spots, and most of those trouble spots come from anglers keeping too many fish. Some of the agents of various states Department of Natural Resources tell us that anglers can't completely fish a lake out, and while that is probably true, anglers can certainly fish a lake down to the point where chances for a decent catch are very small. I've seen it happen too many times, most recently on a wonderful bass lake in central Minnesota.

This particular lake had a public access and had development on the shoreline. The lake is about five hundred acres in size, and used to be full of largemouth bass, nice ones. My friends enjoyed fishing this lake for several years. Then, one year, a campground popped up on the shorelines. The campers discovered the bass. It wasn't unusual to see stringers of three to five pound bass going off to the cleaning table. The catches were legal, but irresponsible. Now, just two years later, we don't fish that lake anymore. There are virtually no bass living there. And the campers are complaining that the state needs to do something about it.

Panfish populations are very susceptible to over-harvest also. Some states in the past few years have reduced the bag limit on most species of panfish, and you know what? The average size has increased noticeably in just a couple of years. Bluegill, crappie, and perch populations need to be protected if we want quality fishing.

I've visited with some pond-owners who encourage anglers to keep all the bluegills they catch to prevent stunting. By keeping every ‘gill caught, you can bet there won't be any small ones. There won't be any big ones either. Moderation is usually the key.

If you want a meal of fish, keep enough small to medium sized fish for one meal, and maybe one meal for the freezer. That's enough. If we do that, we'll have fish in our lakes, rivers, and ponds. And the quality will be there as well. We must remember, we can't keep taking and taking and taking from Mother Nature. If we do, pretty soon she'll stop giving.

Author Bob Jensen
Bob Jensen
Bob Jensen is the host of the Fishing the Midwest television series, a series of television fishing shows that highlight fishing locations and techniques throughout the Midwest. He also writes a syndicated fishing column and does fishing seminars throughout the Midwest. He is a former fishing guide and tournament angler. Visit Bob's web site at
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