Our Coastal Carolina Fishing Resource……Sport or Food Source?
Over the recent years there has been lots of talk about our fishing conservation practices and their impact on our fishing resource. It’s a heated debate with one that many times clouds the actual paths to resolution. Recently I had a conversation with Captain Richard Andrews of Tar-Pam Guide Service located in Bath, NC. I’ll have to say that it was an enlightening chat that allow me to see a bit differently than I had before. The conversation was largely about “fishing regulations”. In this case the topic was primarily on the Striper regulations and the health of that species fishery. While I voiced concerns about the current regulations, Richard informed me that the Striper fishery in the Pamlico was doing well with large amounts of healthy fish being caught. Richard gave the credit for that to the current regulations of limiting the catch, thus giving the spawning age Stripers a chance to spawn in good numbers to replenish the declining stock from previous years, making this regulation a success largely based on its purpose. Richard mention that many of his customers come to him to catch a Striper as a sport rather than for food or just to fill the cooler as a means of getting their monies worth.
With recreational fishing becoming an ever more important part of our Carolina lifestyle, I feel we need to consider the real reasons we fish and more importantly adjust the way many anglers approach fishing. There are many things that impact declining fish resources. It can be environmental, impact of commercial fishing or possibly the climate change that Al Gore keeps talking about. The one thing that we can change the quickest and easiest is the way we fish as recreational fishermen. While a cooler full of fish or deck loaded down is great for our ego or the pictures we send back from that vacation, it has a negative on our fishery. I do believe it’s great to take a few fish for eating but harvesting large amounts of fish has ceased to be a sport. The charter industry is constantly faced with the issue of asking a customer to release their catch. Customers often insist on keeping the fish to show off to family and friends or to make sure they get their monies worth from their fee. This part of the problem is especially compounded by the fact that there are far more guides and charter services in the Carolinas today than there were a few years ago.
It’s my belief that reducing the number of fish taken each year would be a great start to saving our precious fishy. This means stressing to charter customers that we want to practice fishing conservation and make our fishery strong. Set self-enforced catch policies that reduce the fish taken. Aside, from the charter industry, recreational anglers can approach fishing as a sport and not as a food source. While we have the right to keep our catch, we want and need it there in the months and years to come. This takes practicing good stewardship of fishery each time we fish. It’s a mindset that can be quickly shared with other anglers and even taught to the younger generation. It’s not about ceasing to take fish out of the water, but about controlling how much we take out. It’s shouldn’t be a regulation, it should be a commitment by every Carolina fisherman.