Even today, with all our angling knowledge, some anglers still don’t get it! I recently worked an outdoors show in the Southern Ontario area and noticed booths adjacent to ours promoting hunting and fishing in Ontario’s great north. Of course, pictures galore were plastered all over the walls of all booths and being an outdoorsman myself I had to glance at all the trophy game.
My eyes quickly gazed upon a picture with two young boys in their early teens holding a stringer of Smallmouth Bass. They were boasting quite a few. One in particular made me ‘gulp’! This smallmouth was a good 5lbs. It was no longer brilliant in color, but rather a dried up black carcass. There were also Bass in the 3 and 4lb class that were just as dark along with smaller Bass. I was a little uncomfortable that obviously, no one had taken the time to teach these good young anglers the practise of catch and release. I am willing to bet that they didn’t know that the big Smallmouth Bass they were parading around was as old as they were!
Bass in the northern portion of Ontario have a much shorter growing season than in its southern counterpart. Therefore, it takes a long time for them to reach such sizes and it’s Bass this size that populate the lake and keep the species strong and healthy. Don’t get me wrong, I have eaten Bass. There is nothing wrong with a good fry up once in a while, but I make sure that the bigger fish are released. Besides, the smaller fish taste better.
I have caught many Smallmouth from Lakes like Georgian Bay and Erie that were just the right size for frying. Lakes of that calibre can withstand harvesting. But in this case, the northern resort in question, should have realized that Smallmouth that size should have been released unharmed, so that they can make more baby Bass. This was a teachable moment for those young anglers and someone missed the boat.
Education in Bass conservation is imperative, especially in vulnerable northern small lakes. These lakes need all the help they can get to keep the Bass population healthy. I strongly believe that the limit of Ontario Bass is just that, a limit. It doesn’t tell us what sizes we can keep, we as anglers just have to have common sense.
We all know the great Northern lakes are abundant trophy waters, but if we don’t stop taking and eating big fish they will no longer exist. Then where do we go for trophy fish? I don’t know about you, but it would be pretty scary to see an Outdoor Show Resort Booth promoting trophy pond fishing!