Daydreaming as I wait for my wife to finish her shopping or wait for traffic to start moving again, I often find myself reliving some of my more memorable fly fishing experiences. Many of these memories are of trophy fish I have had the privilege of holding briefly before I say “thank you” and release them back into their home waters. Almost all of my fly fishing is catch and release.
Hmm. Catch and release, you say. Most environmentally conscious anglers follow this approach. But many, including me, likely are not fully aware of why we do this, let alone making sure that we are doing it properly. It’s probably time for me to bone up on my knowledge of this commonly used technique. I’ll start by doing some research on my own before talking to the knowledgeable staff at my favorite fly fishing shop, Minturn Anglers.
Why Catch and Release?
Releasing your catch has been promoted for years a method of preserving and conserving fish stocks, especially where it looked like the natural fish populations could not be sustained. Catch and release allows others to enjoy their outdoor fishing experience by perhaps catching the same fish. As early as 1936, Lee Wulff, a noted fly angler from New York, was promoting this conservation technique with the now-famous caution, “Game fish are too valuable to be caught only once.”
The first formal approach in the US to using catch and release as a management tool to maintain fish stocks as well as to reduce costs of stocking trout was developed in Michigan in 1952. Since then, this practice and technique has been refined to cause the least harm possible to the fish.
Today wildlife management organizations and government agencies across the country and around the world control rivers and lakes to ensure that fish thrive in coming years. Based on considerable research, these bodies place limits on the size, number and species of fish that can be kept. They also impose regulations on where and when fishing is allowed, depending on the growth or decline of a particular fish species.
Catch and Release in Colorado
In Colorado, regulations regarding conservation of fish in the state are provided by the Colorado Parks and Wildlife agency. I found out that anybody wanting to learn about fishing regulations in the state is best advised to review the information they provide. Their website at http://cpw.state.co.us also offers a wealth of information about fishing in Colorado.
There are state regulations that apply to specific fish species and what anglers can use to catch them. Catch and release fishing is sometimes a personal preference and decision, but it is also often mandated by regulations. This drives home the point to me that I have to be careful to follow the requirements regarding waters I fish.