Catch and release.
This is a topic becoming increasingly salient in our beloved Norway; if we look at the changes in regulations, we see that these are becoming stricter when it comes to fishing equipment and bag limits. When bag limits were first introduced for my beloved River Gaula one could kill 3 salmon a day, for the 2008 season a 1 salmon a day limit has been proposed, and I see this as a clear development towards catch and release. Most rivers in the middle of Norway will have stricter rules and regulations, and as the status is now, anything could happen during the next few years.
The traditions engraved in us Norwegians as hunters and fishermen are strong, we eat what we get from nature. Since the dawn of time, nature has provided us with food and experiences, and this is why we are having a hard time getting to grips with the topic of catch and release becoming increasingly relevant. There are many parties interested in the wild salmon; fishermen and owners of fishing rights in both rivers and in the ocean, but also the local community along the salmon rivers are reaping the benefits of the values represented by the salmon. Therefore, it is also very difficult to agree on the important questions around the protection of salmon in the future.
The main goal should be to protect the wild salmon forever, and therefore I see debate around this topic as something positive. I have personally gone through several phases during the past few years, the first thing I noticed was that telling stories of all the large salmon I caught last season no longer gave me as much enjoyment as it used to. Early on, I decided to always adhere to all rules and regulations introduced; this became a matter of principle for me. These days I have decided that should catch and release regulations be introduced, I still wish to fish, the catch itself is not the only important factor for me. There are so many great aspects of being on the river during a beautiful summer’s night; the fire, the fly box, the calm, and of course, that great experience of just moving along the river with a fly rod in your hand – I never want to miss this!
Imagine all the adjustments we have made in our fast-moving society, humans are as adaptable as is possible. But the hunter and fisherman in us is almost impossible to remove; we need to bring that salmon home. However, what will happen when there is no more salmon to bring home? It is important to mention that the wild salmon situation we see today is not just a consequence brought on by river fishermen, it is difficult to point the finger, but climate change is surely on the blame-list. Nevertheless, we all have a responsibility regardless of how we feel about salmon, and as such fishermen fishing for salmon on our rivers should adhere to all the rules and regulations introduced. I feel strongly about this, I often take my son fishing and nothing makes me happier than seeing the smile and excitement on his face when we’re fishing, or making a fire. I hope he will be able to experience everything I have experienced as a salmon fisherman.
I would like to encourage all salmon fishers to put back more salmon than they do today. I also bring a couple of fish home; being able to eat the salmon you have caught is sometimes a part of the total experience. When I finally, at some stage during autumn, can put smoked salmon and all that goes with it on the table, life is perfect. But there is another perspective as well, the feeling you get when you feel the power slowly returning to the salmon body and you see it swim back into the river is actually a greater experience than it is killing it.
The act of releasing a salmon brings with it great responsibility; this should be planned according to the landing spot and obviously whether the salmon can be released in terms of injuries it might incur during the fight. Remember that a salmon is incredibly strong, just imagine the long journey it has endured from the ocean and up the river, its determination is just impressive. This is why releasing salmon is normally not a problem, as long as this is planned properly.
You can see how a salmon should be released in this short clip. Find a good spot in which to pull the fish in on, do not lift it onto the bank. Do not lift it out of the water, the worst thing you can do is to lift it up by the tail, the spine will take damage from this and you end up injuring a salmon you could have released. Always keep the salmon in the water, make sure it has water flowing through its gills, keep it upright in the water – after a short while you will feel its power returning and then all you have to do is to let go of it. Now you can sit down with a cup of coffee and enjoy the experience with the best conscience in the world.
Watch the film clip here.