Since I was a knee high to a grasshopper, when I first came into our most beloved of pastimes, many aspects have changed. Some have changed for the better and some for the worst. One which has changed for the better as far as I am concerned is the way in which the majority of anglers treat fish once they are captured.
Not long after coming into fishing I obtained the most barbaric keep net from a car boot sale, which had obviously been hidden away in someones shed and was dried up, stiff as a board. It was the knotted construction of this iron maiden which we now know to be harmful to fish that made it such a savage device. Gladly I can say that I never really kept much in it before I snagged it in the canal and tore it to bits trying to get it back.
Nowadays, thank god, fish care has transcended into a religion. Every possible aspect of how we can care for our quarry has been invented by the fishing tackle industry. It could be said that their motivation is not just for fish safety but for profits, who cares, because every new unhooking mat and state of the art net sold means that any fish that coming into contact with them stands a better chance than it did thirty years ago.
We anglers too have come along leaps and bounds. The way in which we treat fish in most cases is nothing less than reverent. I watched two teenage lads whilst on a popular carp lake earlier this year; when they hooked and landed a small carp, the two of them broke into action of which I could not commend highly enough. One kept the fish in the water in the huge net whilst the other readied the massive cradle mat by sousing it in fresh lake water. Their treatment of this rather small carp was truly amazing and quite honestly the people we have to partly thank for it are those munga mixing southerners from Korda. Their modern and forward thinking TV series Thinking Tackle drums into the avid audience on a daily basis that fish should be cared for above all else, and good on them for it.
It is not the specimen angler or the pleasure angler though that has sparked me up to write this. It is instead the another group of anglers and the TV shows that promote them that are about to take some flack from me!!!
I watch all angling programs no matter how bad they are. Jacky will attain to this I assure you. I am of the belief that somewhere in the monotonous drone of even the seemingly most irrelevant of angling programs, could be one shining gem of information that might be of some use to me.
So the other night I spotted two new episodes of Fishing Gurus on one of the satellite channels. At this point I must say that even for me the first series of this was hard to watch, with its less than captivating presenters. This has changed though in this new series as the producers of the show have made the wise decision to get that eternally overenthusiastic chappy Dean Macey in to try and enthral us a bit more. This new ruse has worked and Dean now brings a little tempo to this awkward watching show.
Anyway back on the subject. In the first episode Dean fished with a favourite presenter of mine, Ali Hamidi and they bagged a load of small carp which were treated as if they were their new born children. Mr Hamidi even landed a very nice carp, and this thing was treated as if he were lifting whatever was inside the Ark of the Covenant out. The second episode starring one Mr Steve Ringer though showed some fish treatment which I will now state is nothing less than a shocking, disrespectful and not only damaging to the fish but our sport as well.
If you have ever watched any televised fishing matches you may have noticed that when a competitor catches a large carp it is lowered onto their keep net in their landing net, and then ejected by pulling the loose net so the kipper rolls into the water. Now this is about as far as respectful to their catch as most match fisherman is prepared to go, and frankly I get the impression they only do that so as the don't lose the big one should it flip out on the way down.
Where my issue lies is when they catch any carp between 1-4lb. I have watched it again and again on loads of televised matches and programs relating to match fishing. Any fish in this size bracket are scooped up quickly in the net, grabbed out behind the fins and then dropped probably three feet or more tail first into the anglers keep net.
If dropping them three feet was not bad enough the fact that they drop them tail first quadruples this terrible habit. We all know how fish breathe, and we all know that fish are kind of evolved to move generally one way through water. So should the fishes gills be open at the moment that it hits the water then all that pressure of the fall combined with the impact of the water is more than likely going to hit those life giving and very delicate gill rakers. Which can't be good for them! I know someone who reads this might say something along the lines of, well fish jump out of the water, and they have to clean out their gill raker's from time to time. So before anyone says it I will state this firstly; like us and blinking, fish will automatically close their gills to prevent damage, and secondly even if they are doing on purpose to possibly clean out there gills, they are doing it to themselves.
Time and time again this practice can be seen on all sorts of match fishing programs. Some garner massive audiences and this makes it even worse because any aspiring young match anglers, or even old ones, will see it and think nothing of doing it themselves next time they catch a similar sized fish.
Quite honestly I can't believe how lazy this is. How much effort does it take to simply turn a fish around, and if they are so lazy as the cant be arsed to bend over a few feet, the fish will at least go into the water in way that it might not get damaged.
The other nasty bit of treatment I have seen again and again on these types of programs is when they come to the weigh-in; fifty, sixty or even seventy pounds of fish at a time are poured from keep nets into weigh slings like they were pouring water down a drain. The only thing is water don't get hurt when that gets casually poured. But fish do! It is no wonder that when fishing commercial venues you see some of the most deformed and ragged looking fish you are likely to ever encounter.
Now I know that both of these bad habits go on at every match run across the UK week in and week out. So how much effort does it take for the high profile anglers which influence the match scene and getting paid to do so, to start trying to do something for the good of their section of our sport which could improve the way fish are treated country wide.
As for the fisheries whose commodities these ill treated fish are, well they must be mental. I work in private industry and if we treated our products as badly as they let theirs be treated we would be out of business in a matter of months. So it just makes financial sense for them to change their rules so no fish are dropped into nets, and at weigh-in's their stocks are treated with a lot more respect by the participating anglers.
There is no doubt in my mind after this little tirade, that of all the differing sectors of angling in the UK, match fishing is ten or more years behind everyone else in the way that they care for their captures, and if they are not careful it will be them drawing more flack onto our sport by anti angling organizations.