Responsible Fishing Guide
For some fishing enthusiasts, nothing compares to the rush and excitement of reeling in the catch of the day. For others, the chance to leave the worries of the world behind and sit quietly on the banks of a river or an isolated piece of shoreline with a line in the water is the perfect antidote to the chaos of modern life.
Regardless of your motivation, as with everything in life, it’s very important to balance the fun of fishing with responsible practises. As well as the rules we need to observe as part of obtaining and keeping a fishing licence, there are simple habits we can all adopt to take care of the lakes, rivers, streams and oceans that we fish in, and preserve the beauty of the natural and marine environment around us.
Responsible Fishing Basics
Each state and territory in Australia provide access to responsible fishing guidelines that everyone should read before planning a fishing expedition. Additionally, there are some fundamentals that all anglers need to be aware of when it comes to responsible fishing.
Among these fundamentals are knowing your bag/boat limits and staying abreast of the latest handling and catch-and-release practices for the different species of fish.
When it comes to catch-and-release, you should also familiarise yourself with the warning signs telling you that your catch is in distress, and that releasing it back into the water could actually be more harmful than taking it with you (see, for example, barotrauma). Plentiful fish stocks are vital to maintaining the environment or marine eco-systems so there are numerous fish left for others to catch today, tomorrow and in the years to come.
If you’re fishing for that night’s dinner (as opposed to catch-and-release), ensure you have a sufficient supply of ice on-hand to keep your catch fresh, and that you’re familiar with the correct way to handle your fish – including the quickest and most ‘humane’ spiking techniques, known as Iki Jime. Keep adequate resources on your boat – or in your pack – for storing your waste, and never take more fish than you need.
Knowing where you’re going, and knowing what you’re fishing for, is important to having a great recreational fishing experience. Before you set out on your trip, familiarise yourself with any of the rules and regulations that apply to the area you plan on fishing.
Are there specific guidelines that apply to the boat ramps and camping sites in the area? Is it closed season? Have there been changes in bag/boat limits and sizes specific to that area or region? What’s the local weather going to be like? Are there any other restrictions in place?
Responsible Use of Bait &
The equipment that you use can also lend itself to responsible fishing.
You don’t use lead paint at home or work, so why would you use it when fishing? stock a range of tackle, bait and accessories that are designed to complement the natural surrounds.
Bait collection can have a serious impact on the environment, as well as reducing the amount of food available for wildlife in the area.
Talk to an in-store expert about bait and tackle alternatives such as bio-degradable fishing lines, flies and timber lures, as well as barbless hooks (for improving mortality rates in catch-and-release tactics) and other alternative bait sources.
Another responsible fishing habit to adopt is to swap chemical sunscreen and repellents for non-toxic alternatives. Similar to bait and tackle, there’s a wide selection of natural products made by many of the brands you’ve come to know and trust over the years.
Leave no trace
Many of the principles that apply to good campsite habits can also easily be applied to your next fishing trip.
Apart from not getting anything to bite, one of the biggest let-downs when fishing can be arriving at your favourite spot only to find it overflowing with litter and other nasties. Always leave your campsite clean by disposing of your waste (solid and otherwise) in the proper, responsible way. Most campsites have compost, recyclable and regular waste containers on-site for your convenience. If they don’t, take your rubbish with you and dispose of it sensibly at the earliest opportunity.
As already mentioned, planning ahead is vital. Make sure you have the right safety gear and that you’re also prepared for extreme weather or any other emergencies. Pack plenty of water and other essential supplies, and try switching to electrical appliances or battery rechargers powered by solar energy. Always let someone know exactly where you’re going.
Be considerate of the environment. Leave plants, rocks and other objects where you found them, and never feed animals that you come across while camping as this can damage their health and alter their natural behaviour in a way that reduces their ability to source food when the campers have left. Try to keep noise (whether that’s voices, music or motor vehicles) to a minimum, and respect the other anglers and campers in your vicinity.
Recreational fishing is a privilege that we should never take for granted. That means always being respectful of the environment and taking good care of the natural surrounds.
Caring for the natural surrounds also extends to the fish themselves that should be handled in a humane manner (e.g. not suspending the fish vertically by their jaws and gills – instead, supporting the fish’s weight horizontally using both hands, etc.).
By following these responsible fishing practices, we’re not only looking after our wildlife; we’re ensuring the future of our recreational fishing culture.