Catch-and-Fillet

Last summer John and I killed and ate a two-year-old bluefin tuna. I’ll admit we had to think about it. Do we feel guilty? Not. KILL FISH, EAT FISH… JUST DON’T WASTE IT… By Capt. John McMurray Killed my first “keeper” of the year on Wednesday. Have to admit that I felt really guilty tossing the 30” bass in the cooler. But how silly is that? To deny our human nature to hunt, kill and eat is an unhealthy PETA-esk perversion. Undoubtedly, there are folks out there who have called and will continue to call me a hypocrite on this keeping-fish issue. Especially in light of the fact that way-back-when I appeared on the cover of the Dining Out Section of the New York Times holding a big dead bass. Add to that all the high-and-mighty smack I talk and I guess I can see where they are coming from. But, the fact of the matter is that these people who love to give me verbal beatings behind closed doors don’t really understand where I’m coming from at all… So… Allow me to pull those proverbial knives out of my back and explain. I’m of the opinion that killing and enjoying a keeper striped bass is okay and would even go so far as to say it’s good. Especially if you’re only taking a few fish a year. In some respects, it adds to the enjoyment of the sport and the more enjoyment folks can get out of it the more folks are going to want to protect it. I’m also of the opinion that taking the self-perceived moral high-ground and looking down at those folk who do enjoy a legal self-caught fresh striped bass every now and then is pompous, arrogant and just downright silly. I’ve found that most of the folks who take this attitude (particularly towards me) are the same ones who are conspicuously absent from hearings, they don’t lift a finger to write a letter when it really matters, and rarely do they even take the effort to understand the issues that effect the striped bass to a much greater extent than occasionally killing a fish. Which leads me to “where I’m coming from” here. Personal conservation choices (i.e. practicing catch-and-release) do most certainly have an effect on total striped bass numbers, but not necessarily a huge one. Because, for every conservation minded angler like you and I there are another twenty others that want to kill their “limit” but still follow the rules. And, hey… That’s totally okay. Where the real effect on how healthy the striped bass stocks are, and how much of a quality fishery we have, lies in legislation, management plans and changing/ affecting management decisions. The laws regarding size and bag limits are the laws, and while some may not follow them, most do. The majority of folks who fish correctly assume (in most cases anyway) that managers know what they are doing and create size and bag limits based on the best available science at the time. So they believe that they can take what they are allowed to take under the law without hurting the stock. And hey, can you blame them? It makes perfect sense. Whether we like it or not, these folks are forever going to be the majority. And, while education on catch-and-release and encouraging folks to make personal conservation choices is necessary and will forever have it’s place, it’s not the end-all to be-all… Not even close… So, no, I don’t discourage killing and keeping a fish now and then (especially if it makes you look like a big-shot in front of your family or gets your photo in the NY Times). Just be conscious not to waste a bit of this immensely valuable resource. Eat it all and enjoy it all… And, before you point the finger that the guy who’s filleting a striper at the cleaning table, ask yourself if you have the right. Because that may be the guy who stood up at the Amendment 6 to the Striped Bass Management Plan hearing at 10:00 PM while his dinner was getting cold and shouted for stricter conservation measures while you sat at home and drank beer in front to the TV…You dig? Last night, as I stood there overlooking several sizzling chunks of striped bass covered with Old-Bay and breadcrumbs, allowing the aroma to waif through my nostrils while unconsciously ignoring my wife’s lecturing about fried-food, high blood pressure and clogged arteries, I thought, what a wonderful thing it was to have this fish. As my second beer began to work its way in to my veins I had one of those rare moments of relaxation and pure happiness. A surreal insight that everything fit in the right way. And the fish??? Delicious beyond words… So… Keep fish… Eat fish… Just don’t waste it…