How to Go Green When Fishing

Although "going green" has become a buzzword today, many fishermen have long approached their outings with an environmentally responsible attitude. Now, however, with increasing attention to the environment and the development of sustainable practices, all fishermen are being asked to re-examine their habits and adopt ways to preserve the outdoor habitat of the fish they seek and other wildlife. Becoming an environmentally responsible fisherman may require you to change some of your practices when you go fishing, but it requires you to develop a more respectful attitude toward the environment and to be more observant of the ways you affect it. Some of the things you can do to go green when fishing are covered in the following steps.


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    Follow the bag, possession, and size limits for the species of fish you seek. "Bag" refers to the number of fish that can be caught in a day, "possession" refers to how many fish an angler has on a stringer or in a cooler (portable or home freezer), and "size" can be either the fish's minimum or maximum length or weight. Bag, possession, and size limits are developed by state, provincial, and other government fish and wildlife agencies to ensure that all anglers have a chance to fish for each species found in the waters they manage and that the species can propagate itself for future generations to enjoy. By following these laws, you enable others to enjoy the same experience later.
    • Some jurisdictions do not allow fishing for certain species during the period in which they normally spawn, notably predator species that are in short supply in a given fishery.
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    Put no more fish on a stringer than you can take home with you. Even when the established bag and possession limits are generous for a given species, if you don't need that many fish, stop when you have the number you can eat or keep frozen for later. Leaving caught fish to rot because you can't or don't want to take them home with you is a waste of a natural resource.
    • You can also consider donating the excess portion of your catch to a local food bank that accepts caught fish and wildlife.
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    Practice "catch and release" fishing if you don't need the fish. Some fishermen choose to turn a fish loose after hooking and landing it, so that it can be caught again later by another fisherman and will hopefully have grown larger by that time. These fishermen often choose to use barbless hooks, either bought or made by mashing the barb against the hook bend with a pair of pliers.
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    Buy only the amount of bait you need. In the case of earthworms obtained locally, excess worms can usually be dumped safely; however, some non-native species of minnows, shad, or suckers used as baitfish may upset the ecological balance of the lake if excess bait is disposed of in the lake after fishing.
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    Get the lead out. Because of concerns raised about lead buckshot poisoning birds and other wildlife, most ammunition manufacturers have switched to steel shot. Similar concerns are now being raised about the lead in sinkers and jig heads, so tackle manufacturers are replacing it with substitute metals such as steel, tungsten, bismuth, and tin. The cost in many cases is comparable to lead, although usually a bit higher.
    • Some jurisdictions now outlaw using lead sinkers when fishing. As of 2007, the state of Vermont made it illegal to use lead sinkers of 1/2 ounce (14.17 g) or less.
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    Pack out your trash. Cleaning up after yourself, and your fellow anglers, is more than a good practice; it can also help to save the lives of area wildlife. Putting the following items in the nearest trash bin or, if none is available, carrying them out with you will help save the lives of fish and birds.
    • Fishing line can get tangled around the legs and wings of water birds such as gulls and loons, making them unable to fly or even walk. Line from discarded leaders may have a hook on the end, which can do even more damage.
    • Improperly discarded plastic bags may wash into the water and sink, winding up in the stomach of fish and turtles, making it difficult for them to digest actual food items and end up starving to death.
    • The plastic rings around 6-pack cans of soda or beer can tangle around birds' beaks or legs, leaving them unable to eat or walk. Not only should you dispose of these items properly, but you should cut the plastic rings before disposing of them in the event the trash can they are tossed into gets knocked over before it can be emptied properly.
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    Respect the integrity of the bank or shoreline. Shorelines erode naturally over time from wind and water action. Erosion can be greatly hastened by vehicular traffic, either from heavy vehicles driving too near the water or from the wakes caused by outboard motors propelling boats at high speed too near the shore. Follow the regulations in place for the use of motor vehicles around banks and shorelines and for outboard motors within the water.
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    Follow any boating regulations imposed on the waters you fish. In addition to restricting where on a body of water outboard motors can be used and their speed (either a defined speed or "no wake" boating), some regulators require boats to be steam cleaned to be allowed on certain lakes, usually those in densely populated areas whose waters form the drinking water supply for the surrounding communities.
    • If you fish a lake for which you have to have your boat steam cleaned, allow sufficient time for the procedure and display any tag signifying the procedure has been performed in a prominent place on your boat.

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Categories: Environmental Awareness | Fishing