Why I Kill
The statement that hunters and fishers are effective conservationists is squarely an oxymoron to many who consider themselves die-hard environmentalists. Countless times I have been presented with the question: How can I kill wildlife and still love and work to protect it?
It happened recently when I was recounting to a friend, also in the environmental field, an off-shore excursion that brought in several large bluefish and a dolphin (dorado). The theme was reinforced in an article sent me by a colleague about effectiveness of circle hooks and the growing ethic among saltwater anglers for releasing gamefish. Then a second reading of an editorial in Outdoor America, the Izaak Walton Leagues magazine, about the history of the conservation ethic among hunters, got me thinking even more.
The most interesting thread was my conversation with my friend, which went something like this: Did you keep the fish? she asked. Yes, just enough for the smoker, I replied. Then she asked, quite seriously, You killed them?
I chuckled, because the thought of keeping gamefish for purposes other than food or scientific inquiry, which was ruled out early in the discussion, never crossed my mind. In fact, I am not sure what other reason there would be. My friend considers herself a staunch defender of the environment, but as far as I could tell she had only a distant relationship to the natural world that she was defending.
Then she asked me if I felt bad when I killed. It is a valid question and one without a simple answer because I do admire and respect birds and fish tremendously. On occasion, I do feel remorse after Ive hooked a fish destined for the cooler or shot a bird mid-flight.
For some, it might be sufficient to say that because they always end up on my dinner table, I am justified in my actions.
Furthermore, hunters annually spend more than $1 billion on wildlife through purchasing licenses, stamps, tags, permits and excise taxes. Also, the recreational harvest is only about six percent of the total U.S. harvest, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration statistics, and fishermen are well within bounds to take home a few fish.
But I think it goes deeper. Id be less than honest if I didnt own up to feeling euphoric after outwitting a wild creature, which never ceases to enthrall me with its instinct to live. Chasing wild game immerses me in the natural cycle of life, and sometimes, but not always, the kill is an integral part of that experience. I suppose there also might be a primal part of my psyche attempting to revert back to when hunting and fishing were as elemental to survival as breathing.
So there it is. Hunting and fishing help with my struggles against over-civilization in a world consumed with advances in complex technology.
Fish Are Biting
The most curious catch this past week was a two-pound amberjack taken in Eastern Bay on a minnow, which was intended for a flounder. It was caught by a friend of a friend, who, of course, declined to provide the specific location and water depth. Amberjacks typically live in much saltier waters, showing up off Virginia Beach and the Outer Banks.
It is pretty much the same story this week for chumming rockfish in the upper Bay: If you catch the right tide, you have a good chance of limiting out, but if not, it might be a long, slow day. Good-sized stripers are up in the rivers off points, grass beds and structure. You can see smaller schoolie rockfish on the surface in the tributaries chasing small baitfish.
Ron from Anglers says its hit or miss for croaker at Hacketts, but Podickory Point has some white perch. There are loads of white perch in the rivers, such as the Wye.
David from Bunkys Charters in Solomons reports that trollers are taking rockfish up to 15 pounds off Gas Docks. Chummers are taking a smaller class of fish.