A defense for fishing

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Susquehannock's picture
A defense for fishing

    Sometimes I wonder: why do I fish? Why do I spend so much of my time impaling aquatic vertebrates on sharp pieces of metal, often just to let them swim back away afterwards? Why don't I sympathize with PETA and other such organizations that discourage it as an act of unnecessary evil?

    My next thought will be something along the lines of​ well, crap, there isn't any harm in it, is there?

   Is there? 

    I have done my research. I realize that many neuroscientists believe that fish feel pain, in one way or another; however, I'm also a fisherman, and I also realize that fish eat everything from crawdads to crabs to minnows with sharp spines effortlessly, and that many bottom feeders will even occasionally suck up a mouthful of rocks along with their lunch. So before anyone tries to tell me that fish feel pain in their mouths, throats, and faces, I'd like to see them eat a live crab. 

    And to back up the first statement, it isn't uncommon to release fish that seem almost unaffected by being caught. I've seen a ladyfish, for example, that was quickly unhooked and released. It swam off, as expected, but then it rejoined its schoolmates and went straight back to eating mojarras. The fact that most fishermen have stories of repeatedly catching the same fish, often with the same lure or bait, proves that there are no"traumatic" experiences associated with being caught, either, and most legitimate experiments in legitimate labs concerning the subject have proven that the statement that released fish "suffer such physiological stress that they often die of shock" (that came from PETA's website) is simply false. 

    But even if angling isn't despicable, why do it? What's the point?

    Well, to answer those questions, we'll need a little demonstration.


    Picture a valley. It's pretty deep and gnarly, but not so much so as to make it inaccessible, and although it's pretty wild, wilderness would probably be an exaggeration; really, it's just the kind of public land with abundant wildlife, beautiful scenery, and a trout stream that outdoorsmen of all persuasions have wet dreams about. The valley could be just about anywhere, but for example's sake, let's say that it's off the Blue Ridge Parkway, in Virginia.

    There are two kinds of people who visit this valley. The most common visitor is the one who drives past on, say, a bus trip. He gets out to stretch his legs, takes in the view, and gets back on the bus. He will have seen lots of nice views lately, and although he may feel like he's found paradise at the time, he'll probably forget about it within a month, and really, there's nothing wrong with that, as we've all been tourists.

    The other person is far less common, but it's sometimes rather hard to tell because he's the one you're more likely to hear about. He's the one who backpacks into the valley, fishes for a couple of days, and eats wild trout for dinner. By the time he's done, he'll feel that he knows the place intimately, and he'll remember it like an old friend thirty years down the road; he has relinquished his position as a spectator and become a participant. He has immersed himself in it.

    "But," someone out there is saying, "what does​ that have to do with anything?"

    Well, a lot, actually. Because if some captain of industry decides to bulldoze half the valley, build a road down the middle, or turn it into a massive expanse of flat water with a dam at one end, that second guy is going to fight it with his last breath. What's the first guy going to do? Well, probably not much of anything. And when it boils down to it, I think that's a large part of why we fish: yes, of course it's fun, and you'll probably get a few meals out of it, too, but fishing is a way to quickly build and maintain a deeply-rooted connection with the world outside of our little electronic boxes. And we all need that now more than ever.



Susquehannock's picture
A defense for fishing

Obviously, you guys aren't the target audience for this, but I still thought you might enjoy it. I think I might pick an antifishing/antihunting group's website and post this as a comment. That could be fun.


the pyromaniac
the pyromaniac's picture
Do it!  It definitely sums up

Do it!  It definitely sums up a lot of why we do what we do.  I'd also add that for me, it's a way of connecting with my kid and my cousin, who are my closest fishing companions, and also with my granddad (who passed in 2013 and was the subject of an obituary post I wrote on this forum), who was the one who got me started on this crazy obsession for roughfish 30+ years ago.




Let there be fire!

Great post!

I fish to relax...there is no better tonic than a peaceful, tranquil stretch of shoreline; salt or freshwater, north, south, east or west, mountain forest, sandy beach, craggy cliffs or windswept prairie...wherever a person's treasure is, their heart will follow.

I think all sincere efforts at conservation are well worth it - the land and critters sadly can't speak up for themselves, so it's absolutely up to us to goofy humans to protect what we treasure, and responsible outdoor sports folks are most often the best for the job - Shovelnoser47's blue sucker post is the best proof of that!

I personally can't stand PETA, they love to dish it out but can't take it, so ditto what Mr. Pyromaniac posted

Susquehannock's picture

As far as PETA, I agree. I had a look at their website a while back, just to see if there really are any good ideas there, and found that they don't even support conservation all the time. They've done some good work with stray pets, but they fight predator reintroductions, partially because it "is also traumatic for...other animals who suddenly find themselves being stalked and killed".

I bet that not one frickin' member has ever left NYC.


philaroman's picture
I disagree

I'm all for  People Eating Tasty Animals http://www.tastyanimals.us/

lots of good ideas: http://www.doughney.net/tasty/

excellent steak sauce: https://www.amazon.com/PETA-People-Eating-Tasty-Animals/dp/B008R19M12

P.E.T.A. sucks!!!  Plants are living things, too -- they're just easier to catch!

Susquehannock's picture
People Eating Tasty Animals

I love it.


philaroman's picture
actually, thanks

I didn't know about the PETA Steak Sauce & T-shirts, 'til I went lookin' for links for this thread -- the other stuff is like 20 y. o.

the whole court battle over "peta.org" is pretty funny

P.E.T.A. sucks!!!  Plants are living things, too -- they're just easier to catch!

zippyFX's picture
Naturalist tendencies.....

I like to fish for some of the reasons mentioned here. I like to be out doors. Focusing on something other than work or the internet. Something to call my own with a busy family life.  For me it's kind of a naturalist pursuit. Just being out and expereincing what nature has too offer. I have seen so much wildlife the past couple of years everything from spiders, otters, frogs, birds, etc... (I still still hate the sneaky and stealthy beaver who are fond of sneaking up on me at sunrise and watching me jump when they tail flap)

I like fishing because it compells me to try and understand fish and thier habitat away from the random distraction. Why are they here today when they were not here yesterday. Why did they take one bait this week when they would not take it last week.  What is that little guy darting around in the water. There may be answers to these questions or there may not be.   That's OK though. 

I like to fish with my kids but they like it once awhile for so long. They may or may not grow into  it and thats OK. Sometimes its OK that they explore the bushes looking for Frogs or just skipping stones. My little guy laugh when I get every fish in the water except the one we are targetting. 

I like knowing what fish is on my line. I like it better when I can say I am going to this spot, using this bait and going to catch this fish and it happens. I also like it when something unexpected happens. Even if nothing happens I still manage to have a good time. 

Fish identification is nice passtime. Is ometimes log onto facebook to check the fishing groups to see if someone needs a fish identified. I like thumbing through the books with my kids. looking for the perfect ID. 

I just like it I guess.... and that OK. 

Casey Shanaberger
Casey Shanaberger's picture
Beautifully written!

I've had many people ask my why I fish. I do it for fun, to enjoy myself, to prove to myself that I can catch fish. But, like you said, I love to just be immersed in the outdoors and spend as much time as possible fishing so I can feel like I'm part of the natural food chain again. 

When people give me crap for fishing, I ask them if they have anything that they like to do. Then, I ask them why they do it. They'll say because it's fun or they enjoy it, and I'll say that's why I like fishing. Simple enough.

"I swear if you catch another drum"

DinoFish's picture
Wonderful essay!

I really love this, it's been something that's come to my mind over the past couple years and I think you did a really great job of putting it into words. 

"Fishing is much more than fish... It is the great occasion when we may return to the fine simplicity of our forefathers." - Herbert Hoover

"I've had many people ask my

"I've had many people ask my why I fish. I do it for fun, to enjoy myself, to prove to myself that I can catch fish."

Same here. That's passion, right there. Our hearts are in the right place.