My Bucket List: It isn’t what you think…

22 Apr

I was checking out this post from Switters B & Fly Fishing. In a nutshell, the post is about which fish we keep and which ones we release back to nature.

I find my own choices, as to when to keep fish and when to release them, are constantly in flux. Let me try to explain.

When I used to fish stocked lakes in Alberta, the so called put and take system, I knew that in late fall those fish had at most a few weeks to live due to winter kill and lack of aeration in the lake.  There was no choice in the matter, I took a few fish every outing.  Not every fish I caught but a few for a meal or two.  Which fish went in the creel?  There was no rhyme or reason, perhaps a small fish that was hooked deep, or a larger fish 2-3 lbs for a few dinners.  Native fish were always catch and release but that had more to do with the state of the local watershed than my preference to eat grayling, walleye and bull trout.

Moving to Ottawa, Ontario has complicated things as far as harvesting fish for food, or practicing catch and release.  There are at least eight species that I have eaten from local rivers.  Channel catfish, walleye, bass, crappie, pike, trout, sunfish, and perch are on the menu at my house at various times of the year.  Early spring to early summer channel cats are available and delicious. Pike through the ice, bass if I am camping and can’t find anything else, walleye, crappie and perch are awesome year round.  And a trout would be a treat anytime I could get one, if I was prepared for it.

That is the hitch. I have to be ready to take fish.  I don’t know what is different about certain days. Some days I load the cooler with ice and when a nice crappie and a few perch find their way to the boat or shore they come home with me.  Other days I couldn’t be bothered. I like to think that on catch and release days I am fishing to restore my sanity. Perhaps, on days like that, not having to make the choice to keep or release fish just keeps the experience more enjoyable.

So every now and then I can be caught fishing with a white bucket or a cooler.  I know the stigma.  I mean those guys are taking 40 fish every day over their limit and they are the people who leave trash and broken beer bottles everywhere… Just admitting being a bucket fisherman on a fly fishing blog or a spot like reddit might tarnish my reputation forever.  To clarify, I respect my daily or possession limits and if I don’t catch anything that day I have had more exercise humping a cooler to the shore, and have a great place to collect and dispose of shore trash on my way out.

If I am being completely honest, the days that I have the bucket or cooler I tend to catch fewer fish.  I think it is because I am less nimble, and trying to target a particular species.  There are a few species that I have dialed in, but mostly I end up with a few fish at the end of the day.

I take the fish home to some happy kids and a sense of providing for my family.  It feels good to walk through the door with a fresh catch and my kids are learning where food comes from.  It seems to be a lesson that is hard to come by these days.

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