Story last updated at 4:00 p.m. Thursday, October 24, 2002

Catch-and-release effective
From the perspective of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, it needs to be made clear that catch-and-release has proven to be a widely accepted and valuable management tool. Successful catch-and-release management plans have been implemented for rainbow trout in Cook Inlet and Bristol Bay, for Arctic grayling in Interior Alaska, and for steelhead trout in Southeast Alaska. Moreover, catch-and-release fishing has a long and proven history around the globe -- New Zealand's world-renowned trout fisheries, Europe's grilse fisheries, bass fisheries in the Lower 48, and offshore billfish fisheries are all managed in some part under catch-and-release regulations.

In Alaska, one of the ways catch-and-release fishing regulations are used is to provide dependable fishing opportunities that would otherwise not be available. Catch-and-release also is used to help conserve depressed stocks or to rebuild depleted stocks, and to provide the opportunity to catch trophy-sized fish, which would not be allowed without catch-and-release regulations.

Almost every angler in Alaska has at one time or another practiced catch-and-release, even in harvest-oriented fisheries. Sport, commercial, and subsistence anglers all catch-and-release when they release a fish that they think is too small, or if they are targeting salmon and something else gets in their net. Also, when it's allowed, many anglers like to continue to fish after keeping their bag limit. They, too, are catch-and-release anglers.

No matter the type of catch-and-release, fishery managers must account for the loss of catch-and-release fish to hooking mortality, be sensitive to cultural opinions and values on the subject, and provide educational programs aimed at teaching proper catch-and-release techniques to minimize injuries to fish.

With these actions, catch-and-release provides the maximum number of anglers the opportunity to fish, with minimum impacts on fish stocks. Without these actions, catch-and-release is an ineffective management tool.

My colleagues at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, who have collectively spent the past 40 years studying catch-and-release fisheries across the state, believe catch-and-release remains a valuable tool for managing recreational fisheries. We will be asking the Board of Fisheries to continue its use where appropriate.

Doug Vincent-Lang, assistant director,

Division of Sport Fish, Alaska Department of Fish and Game