Fishing offers the possibility of a unique connection with a wild underwater creature that cannot be experienced with any other outdoor activity. That next cast could be met with a nerve-rattling strike. With a successful hook set, a connection via a barely visible line transfers the fish’s determined pull and energy of powerful runs and acrobatic leaps. And then, if you want, the fish can be returned for another angler to experience someday.
Fishing is part hunting. However, living vicariously as a small, unsuspecting lure that is suddenly smashed with a ferocious strike, the hunter is also the hunted. Unfortunately, real hunting lacks a return policy. “You break it, you buy it.”
Perhaps another outdoor activity that could be compared to fishing is walking a dog. That is, walking a huge, energetic, untrained puppy that is trying to chase a cat that just darted in front of you. They even make a reel-in type leash, which I suspect was invented by an angler.
We can’t all be like Turtle Man and catch by hand a wild animal like a raccoon, admire it, then release it without a trip to the hospital. But the catch and release practices of fishing rarely result in an injury to either party. (Though some fish like sharks or gar are trickier than others.)
If the fish is destined for the skillet, fine. But if the angler wants to return the fish, by using barbless hooks, lures instead of bait, and fighting/handling the fish with care there is a high probability of a successful release. Often anglers just want to earn a little Bass Thumb, and then release the fish, perhaps to meet again someday in a bigger battle. And for fishings’ practical return policy, I am truly grateful.