A Late Life Hunter and Angler: Harvesting a fish

"Make sure you have a clear shot." You want a clean and quick kill." "You don't want the animal to suffer." I am sure many hunters and anglers have heard these statements or at least something close to these statements many times in their time hunting. I know as I have immersed myself in this world of hunting and gathering I have come to understand not only the legal ways but also the ethical ways to harvest animals. I felt like a lot of focus was put towards large animals, waterfowl, and upland game. Don't get me wrong there is nothing wrong with this. I just feel that there is one animal that is being overlooked. That is fish.



Like I have mentioned before, I am constantly having mental debates and challenging my opinions and beliefs as much as I can. I am trying to develop opinions and beliefs that I feel are moral and ethical so I can base my actions off of them. The idea of an ethical fish harvest came to my mind when I was trying to figure out the most ethical and quick way to harvest a fish.


This journey had me looking into stringers and which ones would be the best to store fish while I was on the river. For those who may not know, fish stringers are basically a way to keep all your fish you catch and keep in one place until you reach limit or are finished for the day. The most common stringer is just a long piece of nylon rope that has a ring on one end and a dull metal needle on the other. You thread the needle through the mouth and out one of the gills and then through the ring on the other end. As you catch more keepers you add them to the stringer. There are different types though, like ones that have clips along the length of the rope. The clips open up and allow you to put a clip through the lower jaw of the fish in a way allowing the fish to stay alive. Keeping fish alive is a common way to keep the fish fresh. The problems when it comes to harvesting fish is that they can go bad quick if you kill them and fail to keep them cold or in a cooler. Even keeping them on a stringer in the water by you can cause the fish to go bad if the water is too warm or if other aquatic bugs come out to start eating it. Obviously they stay the freshest when they are alive. That is why a stringer or a live well is good idea if you will be keeping fish. It prevents the fish from going bad and thereby avoiding waste.



This thought was also stirred in my mind when I would see ice fishers leaving their catch on the ice to freeze or die from lack of oxygen, whichever one kills them first, usually it's the freezing. Now I am not saying that freezing the fish is not a good way to preserve the meat until you are ready to break it down. In fact it is probably the best way. My thought is why not take a few seconds and quickly kill it and then let it freeze instead of letting it slowly freeze to death or die due to lack of oxygen.


The problem that I was having was the idea of keeping the fish alive on the end of a leash or letting a fish freeze slowly while it was still alive. I was under the mindset that If you wanted to harvest an animal for its meat that it provides you should do it quickly and ethically with the least amount of suffering. I do not know why fish seem to be overlooked when it comes to a quick clean kill but it is something that should be treated like any other living creature that is harvested. I feel that they can be stressed and feel pain. Now to what extent I do not know but to me it is enough to warrant a quick and clean kill. The fact that it is a living animal should be enough for it to be treated with the same amount of respect as a deer or any other living creature.



So the final decision I made. I decided I am just going to keep a regular stringer on me when I am planing on keeping fish. I feel the best way ethically harvest fish is to kill the fish and then keep it on the stringer in the water. If the water is too warm then I will keep a cooler near me or not harvest the fish at all, or at least until the water cools down. As hunters, anglers, and conservationists we should constantly be challenging and evaluating our mindsets and ways we harvest animals. I try and do this all the time and I feel like it has helped me in many ways to not only appreciate the animal I am hunting but to have more gratitude towards the animal.


What are your thoughts on harvesting fish? Am I thinking too much about this or do you agree? Let me know what you think. I would love to hear it and possible talk about it more.


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