Monday, February 28, 2011

Catch and Release

Jan 6, 2011

When I was a young boy times were much simpler.  It was the eighties, and life moved a lot slower back then.  My father liked to take us fishing on weekends.  It was good wholesome fun.  One weekend my father decided for me and him to have a father and son fishing day out at Cockroach Bay in Ruskin, Florida.
Cockroach Bay is a beautiful estuary that has many types of fish, birds, and other creatures including many rare and endangered species.  The water in the shallow part of the bay ranges only one to ten foot.  Most of the time the water depth is about four feet deep.  It makes it the perfect place to navigate a john boat for a father and son.
I was seven years old at the time, and was fishing mainly for pinfish.  I had a very simple set-up.  It was a standard push-button rod and reel, and I was using a small hook with cut up shrimp for bait.  Despite being seven I had been fishing for a few years, and kind of had the hang of how this fishing thing worked.  I had caught a few pinfish and smaller trout when something great happened.
I felt something on the line, and started reeling in.  However, I knew something felt strange.  I felt the pull of something on the line, but I didn’t feel the fight.  I let my father know that something was odd, and that the pull didn’t feel right.  My dad was good, and had the net ready.  He then netted my first and only starfish.
That’s right.  Due to the shallow water my bait had been dragging the bottom of the water.  The starfish was quick and grabbed my bait, and wrapped himself up in the line.  When I say he wrapped himself up in my line, I really mean it.  Dad had to spend a good minute getting the starfish untangled from the bait and line.

Then he asked me the question, “Do you want to keep it?”  I had always watched Bill Dance’s fishing program and noticed how he practiced catch and release.  I asked dad about this and he told me that if he kept all the bass he caught he could wipe out a lake.  Well, this wasn’t a bass.  It was better than a bass.  It was also much rarer.  This starfish only existed in the realm of unicorns and dinosaurs.  Hey, I said I was seven at the time. 
I had to do what Bill Dance would want me to do.  I immediately told dad we had to release it.  He did ask if I wanted to handle it, and put it back into the water, but I told him, “No, it had all these weird little feet on it.”  It’s true, if you ever look at the underside of a starfish they have all these weird feet type thingies. 
But here’s something I didn’t find out until years later.  As in, I was in high school, and found out.  It turns out there is an abundance of starfish.  They also eat a ton of clams.  One starfish can eat ten clams a day.  Not only that, but if the population of starfish gets too high it puts the clam population in danger. 
Here’s a true story.  The calm fishermen were so upset with the starfish wiping out their clams that they went out, and cut up a bunch of starfish.  Unfortunately, the starfish population went up.  Why?  Well, because starfish breed by splitting apart.  They didn’t cut the starfish up fine enough, and all they did was create new starfish.
But back to me, and my unicorn starfish.  It seems that I would have actually helped the environment if I had kept the starfish.  But hey, I only knew one thing, and that was, what would Bill Dance do? 

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