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    Pat Stout

      Consider selective harvest of fish through catch and release
      April 19, 2021

      By Daryl Bauer
      Nebraska Game and Parks Commission
      LINCOLN, Neb. – Catch and release is an established and important part of modern fishing.
      Sure, harvesting some of the fish we catch should be a part of our fishing experience. However, our fisheries are managed for recreational fishing, and if you are just fishing for a meal, well, the grocery store likely would be a cheaper way to get your fish.
      In some cases, catch and release is mandated by regulations; all length-limit regulations essentially are mandatory catch-and-release regulations. Study after study, report after report, have shown how the proper application of length limits, mandatory catch-and-release, works for producing and maintaining quality fishing. Some anglers choose to take it even further by voluntarily releasing most or all of the fish they catch.
      Big fish are not difficult to catch because they are so smart but because they are so rare. In almost any population of sport fish, any species, large specimens usually are the least abundant. For that reason, I am a huge proponent of selective harvest.
      I am not against harvesting some fish for a meal of fresh fish now and then. We should maintain the tradition of eating some of what we catch. Fresh fish are tasty and good for you, too. However, I do believe the days of filling the freezer with freezer-burnt fish fillets are over.
      When I choose to harvest some for a meal of fresh-caught fish, I selectively choose to harvest those species and sizes of fish that are most abundant and can withstand some harvest, within the regulations, of course. Big fish, big specimens of every species, including panfish, always go back in the water as soon as possible.
      Fish, including big fish, can be recycled. Whether by research or fish stories, there is proof fish caught and released can be caught again. I have seen brown trout and muskies caught and released by myself and fishing partners caught again by other anglers. A caught and released 28-inch, tagged walleye I caught later was caught and reported by another angler.
      What about a trophy to hang on the wall? Reproduction mounts are just as realistic and will last much longer. Or photos can be enlarged and framed to help preserve the memories. Either way, the fish do not have to be harvested to be memorialized.
      Nebraska’s Master Angler program recognizes fish caught and released for awards and encourages the practice by awarding a catch-and-release hat pin in addition to the certificate. For more on the Master Angler program, visit
      Famous fly fisherman Lee Wulff put it this way: “Game fish are too valuable to be caught only once.”

      Pat Stout

        A salient article from our own NGPC. Obviously, the SRPG/SFSC has embraced this concept, which is at the core of our current Fishing Regulations. The old, longstanding regulations that were in effect for so many years on the river were based on a “put & take” philosophy. That is, the river was stocked every few years or so. However, stocking on the river below the dam was last done around 1984. The then regulations meant that anglers could take up to 16 fish per trip (8 per day) and then, lowered to 12 per trip (6 per day) with only 1 trout > 16 inches taken per day day. It become clear from the Trout surveys, angler photos and other means that a significant number of larger fish were being harvested. But, the most important factor not often considered was that the Snake River below the dam had become a Wild Trout Fishery. And as such, it required appropriate management for a “Wild” fishery and not a “put & take” fishery. After discussions with biologists in different states here in the region, using our own specific data and understanding the geomorphology of this river, the current regulations came to be. We intend to monitor the fishery every few years and perhaps, the regulations will be adjusted once and a while

        Even though I am longstanding TU member and officer, I do not fully subscribe to the absolute “Cath & Release” mantra that some of my friends here in Colorado rigidly adhere to. Rather, each river is different and for the most part requires management tailored to its own characteristics and eccentricities. Above the Falls, the geomorphology, riparian features and water characteristics influence the fishery in a way that has limited spawning potential and habitat. So, for now, it is a Catch & Release reach. Below the Falls, the stream characteristic are exemplified by rich reproduction and recruitment of trout. Selective harvest is in effect from the Falls to the Steer Creek with all fish > 14 inches returned to the waters in an effort to restore master angler fishing. If you think about it, the last stocking in the 1980’s probably had an effect lasting until the early nineties, if you realize that some of these trout will live 6-9 years. So, from the nineties on, the fishery was subjected to some pretty liberal regulations and no doubt, harvest as well.

        I took a similar approach to the management of my reach upstream of the Falls in 2006, putting Cath & Release into place, getting the cattle off the riparian zone, and enhancing the habitat to help the river be what it wants to be. It has been very successful and we are now seeing other parts of the upper stream becoming more productive.



          Thank you for posting the interesting and informative information. “Game fish are too valuable to be caught only once.” I feel that is a great motto.
          I feel that the current fishing regulations are very reasonable to anglers and very conducive to fish being able to become old and big.
          I read an article by Daryl Bauer where he stated that he thought the brown trout state record in Nebraska would never be broken. I like to be optimistic and think that with the river being managed as a “wild fishery” and not a “put and take” fishery one day the state record brown trout will be broken in the Snake River.

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