Carp are the usual catch at the annual Shuswap Kid’s Fishing Derby held on Father’s Day. (File photo)

Column: Coarse fish may be a more viable sport fishing option

Great Outdoors by James Murray

Most anglers would rather catch one nice fish as apposed to catching no fish.

What they really mean is that they would rather catch one nice rainbow trout as apposed to catching no fish at all. That being said, when it comes right down to it, especially if you are an advocate of catch and release, it doesn’t really matter what kind of fish you catch as long as you catch something.

I enjoy fishing, in part because I just like to be out there casting a line. I also enjoy the excitement of actually catching fish. I have been for the longest time a so called catch-and-release angler. So called because I do now and then harvest fish for the dinner table. I love the thrill of tying into a 250-pound sturgeon as much as hooking a three- or four-pound trout on a fly line. I have fished all over Canada for a lot of different species of fish. If I had to select one fish that I enjoy eating the most it would have to be a walleye.

There is nothing like fishing in Northern Ontario in the fall, catching a walleye and then frying it up and eating right there on shore.

Now having said that, I have also caught a lot of fish that I would never, ever, even consider eating. Some because they are not really edible, such as suckers and other bottom feeders and still others such as sockeye salmon because they are so few in numbers now and I just don’t feel that I should be harvesting a fish species that is already in serious trouble. I don’t know if I will ever get to go sockeye fishing again.

Related: Column: Carp a scrappy fish to catch

For a variety of reasons, I now find myself having to reassess when, what and where I plan to fish in the coming season.

Some time ago, I decided to not fish for sea-run sockeye and try fishing for kokanee instead. Halibut and walleye I can get at the store as well a whole lot of other types of fish. Not that I would turn down a trip to Mexico or Belize or somewhere to catch a tuna or bonefish, or something like that. Then there are the so called coarse fish, carp, pikeminnows, suckers and other species of fish that most anglers look down their collective noses at.

Few coarse fish species are respected less and reviled more than the lowly northern pikeminnow. They are scavengers that feed primarily on bait fish and other small fish such as immature trout and salmon – the very species that are so highly sought after my most anglers.

Carp are omnivorous feeders, with a preference for chironomid pupae and damsel fly nymphs, as well as, other aquatic invertebrates … the very food sources that trout feed on.

Suckers, once established in a lake, can virtually take over and replace trout populations. So it is easy to see why many anglers look down their nose in disdain of coarse fish.

Related: Considering fly patterns and carp

However, there are a few good things that can be said for the lowly coarse fish. They tend to grow quickly and on light tackle can provide excellent fishing for children, who are just learning about angling techniques, and who are more interested in quantity over quality.

Carp can live to be well over 20 years old and can grow to reach lengths of up to 50 inches. I don’t care who you are, catching a carp that size on a fly rod would be pretty darned exciting.

Although trout are currently being stocked in many of our province’s lakes and streams to enhance numbers and area-specific populations, who knows how long stocking programs will last. I’m not all that sure about what lies ahead for sport fishing as we know it. We definitely need to act now though before it is too late.

Sockeye stocks are in serious trouble as well as halibut. Who knows what lies in store for species such as ling cod, bull trout and burbot, not to mention a whole lot of other fish species. I don’t even want to get into global warming and climate change.

Maybe fishing for lowly coarse fish is a viable alternative to angling for those fish species that are facing such an uncertain future.

After all, if you are going to catch and release whatever you catch, and, if catching something is better than nothing at all, then what difference does it make what species you catch.


@SalmonArm
newsroom@saobserver.net

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