....and not the government.
Let me begin with a joke I heard
A professor at LSU asked a student in his class, "Where would you want to be if the world were to end?"
After a thoughtful pause, the student said, "I would like to be in Louisiana." Slightly confused, the professor asked why.
"Because everything happens 20 years later in Louisiana," replied the student.
Honestly, when I heard that joke I couldn't help but laugh a little. I love Louisiana and it doesn't bother me that popular trends take hold a little later here.
We have our own way of life that I prefer over others. After all, there is no place like Louisiana!
However, I do believe when it comes to conservation we are seriously behind the power curve.
Louisiana's inshore anglers' heads will pop if they release a fish.
This doesn't mean I'm being a tree hugging hippy, crying over by-catch or the occasional dead dolphin (if you've spent enough time on the water you don't really care for dolphins).
Instead, I am advocating a slightly different approach to what we take from and give to our incredible waters.
We can look to bassing.
Bass angling is the gold standard of recreational fishing and, compared to bass anglers, we are at least twenty years behind the power curve: We measure our angling success by how many fish we catch and keep in the cooler.
It's almost a measure of machismo. If you don't believe me, watch inshore anglers open coolers to display their catch or see how someone else did.
The concept of catch-and-release (or CPR: Catch. Photo. Release.) is heresy, with some people literally chastising those who make the personal choice to release a fish.
"Boy, are you stupid?" typically being the outrage when they learn of a fish swimming free.
For me, bass angling is the recreational standard. The largemouth bass is America's fish and is nationally recognized.
Once upon a time all bass tournaments were kill-tournaments. The mentality of "catch and keep" was just as prevalent in the 50s and 60s for bass as what it is today with speckled trout and redfish.
After aggressively promoting catch-and-release and the idea of conservation, bass anglers set the standard for protecting their fishery.
Today, entire lakes are engineered from scratch to create world-class bass fishing. One of those lakes is even in Louisiana!
Sometimes, bass anglers can get a little crazy with it, such as the release of this potential world record spotted bass. Fast forward to 21:20 to see them weigh it and release it.
I can't say that I would release a potential world record without it being certified. I think those guys are a tad crazy for having done that, but I respect their love for the fish they pursue.
Another example is Lee Wulff.
Lee was a trout angler in New England during the 1930s. They were experiencing immense fishing pressure.
Lee took an initiative that separated the idea of catching fish from killing them...and that was in the 30s!
This initiative eventually influenced Ray Scott to promote catch and release in B.A.S.S. tournaments, spawning an era of conservation that continues to this day.
This doesn't mean passing laws onto other people
I don't believe we should lower the limits for speckled trout or redfish in Louisiana. I believe they are fine where they are.
I also believe we shouldn't turn to the government to provide solutions to our problems. I am an adult and don't need my hand held.
If you are old enough to read this then you ought to be as well.
Be the change you want to see in the world.
Once upon a time I attributed my angling success to what I caught and kept. Which is fine, as it was a stage of angling maturity that I eventually grew out of.
Today, I still keep fish to eat. I love speckled trout poboys! That's just part of Louisiana culture.
But I also tagged and released 700+ speckled trout in the last 60 days. I've laid more hands on speckled trout than people see in a year and the majority of those fish went back in the water.
Would the Negative Nancy's have done the same if they caught that many fish?
Because It's Not a Big Deal
Letting a few fish go on your fishing trip is not a big deal.
I have heard anglers present every excuse and even put blame on others before accepting personal initiative and responsibility.
They think they are side-stepping the crosshairs of peer pressure but they're really just showing their lack of character. Is this you?
When we can keep 25 speckled trout per person each day, it's not a big deal to let five of them swim free.
Speckled trout are too valuable to only be caught once.
It's a Personal Choice
At the end of the day it's up to you to decide what you want to do.
If your only goal is to fill the cooler then don't be surprised when all you catch are throwbacks.
If you must keep every five pound speckled trout, then don't be surprised when you never catch an eight pounder.
I've been to parts of the world where "conservation" isn't even in the vocabulary.
One place that comes to mind is a city where every tree had been cut down for firewood and never replanted. Today, the inhabitants use tires, plastic, anything that will burn, to stay warm during the winter.
Conservation Begins in the Hearts of Inshore Anglers"]Our marsh is shrinking, not growing. I know I don't need the state to tell me how many fish I should keep as a result of that.