Les Palmer: Angling ethics

Angling — fishing with hook and line — has a long history. It was already highly developed when Stone Age artists were painting fishing and hunting scenes on the walls of caves. The idea that angling is more than just gathering food is ancient. In 500 B.C., in what could be the first written reference to what we now call a “sporting chance,” Confucius wrote: “The master angled, but did not use the net; he shot, but not at birds perching.”

The activity known as sport fishing means different things to different people. To one angler, it might mean bait-fishing for crappie on a farm pond in Ohio. To another, it might mean stalking bonefish on a saltwater flat in the Caribbean. To still another, sport fishing might be harvesting a winter’s supply of salmon on the Kenai River.

Over the years of its existence, a widely accepted code of ethics for sport fishing has evolved. While opinions may differ on various aspects of fishing behavior, the following list represents the angler’s credo in general terms.

The ethical angler:

■ knows about and respects the fish and their habitats,

■ respects private property,

■ respects other anglers,

■ uses tackle accepted as “sporting” for the fish and the water involved,

■ may give away fish, but doesn’t sell them,

■ avoids fishing with unethical people and confronts anglers who act unethically,

■ keeps no more fish than can be used, and stops fishing when fish can’t be harmlessly released,

■ passes on ethical fishing traditions,

■ knows and observes the law in both letter an spirit.

All of these terms can be expanded upon, of course. Take the first. Learning about fish and their habitats is a lifetime activity for the ethical sport angler. Without such knowledge, you can unknowingly do harm. Ignorance is only temporary bliss. Along the Kenai River, studies have shown that overhanging grass and bushes provide vital food and cover for rearing king salmon. Standing on a vegetated bank while fishing kills this vegetation. It follows that, if you know and respect the fish and their habitat, you’ll either fish from a boat, or while standing in the water, on gravel bars or on fishing platforms.

The angler’s credo is constantly evolving to keep abreast of population growth, new technology and other factors. For example, fishing on crowded waters requires that we “go along to get along” by learning the “rules of the road.”

The rules of the road are unwritten, and every place has its own. Usually, these rules make such good sense, they’re obvious. Sometimes, you learn them the hard way. If everyone else is wearing hip waders and standing in the water, you won’t make any friends by standing behind them and casting between them. You’ll also be unpopular if you troll through a crowded Kenai River fishing hole when everyone else is back-bouncing.

The pressures of crowding on Alaska’s road-accessible salmon streams require anglers to be extra diligent. Someone who is ignorant of the written or unwritten rules can spoil the day for several other anglers.

When ethical anglers see someone who doesn’t seem to know the rules of the road, they’ll politely suggest the right way of doing things, of “going with the flow.” If they see someone doing something illegal, they’ll report it to the authorities.

Why have a sport-fishing code of ethics?

With human populations continuing to grow, responsible behavior and unwritten rules are an absolute necessity. Without ethics, sport fishing becomes just an expedient way of killing fish.

Les Palmer can be reached at les.palmer@rocketmail.com.

More in Life

Getting creative with camping

Making healthy, diverse meals while outdoors takes some planning

James Franklin Bush was arrested and jailed for vagrancy and contributing to the delinquency of minors in California in 1960, about a year before the murder in Soldotna of Jack Griffiths. (Public document from ancestry.com)
A violent season — Part 4

James Franklin “Jim” Bush stood accused of the Soldotna murder of Jack Griffiths in October 1961

Will Morrow (courtesy)
Hard to say goodbye

I’ve mentioned in the past that I’ve been perfectly happy with my 14-year-old, base model pickup truck.

Minister’s Message: Faith will lead to God’s abundance

Abundance is in many aspects of our lives, some good and some not.

Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion
Lisa Parker, vice mayor of Soldotna, celebrates after throwing the ceremonial first pitch before a game between the Peninsula Oilers and the Mat-Su Miners on Tuesday, July 4, 2023, at Coral Seymour Memorial Park in Kenai.
Kenai and Soldotna square off once more in ‘King of the River Food Drive’

Food can be donated at the food bank or at either city’s chamber of commerce

These noodles are made with only three ingredients, but they require a bit of time, patience, and a lot of elbow grease. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
Filling the time with noodles

These noodles are made with only three ingredients, but they require a bit of time, patience and a lot of elbow grease

[csC1—]Jack and Alice Griffiths, owners of the Circus Bar, pose together in about 1960. (Public photo from familysearch.org)
A violent season — Part 3

The second spirit, said Cunningham, belonged to Jack Griffiths….

Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion
The Kenai Potter’s Guild’s annual exhibition, “Clay on Display,” is seen at the Kenai Art Center on Tuesday.
Expression in a teapot at July art center show

Kenai Art Center’s annual pottery show takes front gallery, with memories of Japan featured in the back

Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion
Attendees take food from a buffet during the grand opening of Siam Noodles and Food in Kenai on Tuesday.
Soldotna Thai restaurant expands to Kenai

The restaurant is next to Jersey Subs in Kenai where Thai Town used to be located

Nick Varney
Unhinged Alaska: Sometimes it’s not cool to mention heat

Thanks for the joke fest material rolling into our Unhinged Alaska headquarters folks but chill out.

Ruth Ann and Oscar Pederson share smiles with young Vicky, a foster daughter they were trying to adopt in 1954. This front-page photograph appeared in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner on June 17, 1954.
A violent season — Part 2

Triumph, tragedy and mystery