Meat Eaters

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“If it’s big enough to take my bait, it’s big enough to hit my plate.” (Deion Sanders)

If you’ve fished for any period of time and posted pics of your prized catches to social media, then no doubt you’ve gotten one of the following annoying comments.

“Boy, I bet that one tasted good.”

or

“Why don’t you ever bring me any fish?”

It may be hard for Aunt Delores in Dubuque or your high school friend Booger in Baltimore to understand, but some of us fish for these little green and brown suckers because we love the chase or the competition. We don’t need a tangible reminder of our vanquished foe to drive us. No one ever asks a skier why they go up a hill just to head back down, but with our sport the uninitiated can’t understand the thrill of the hunt. It’s generally not worth trying to explain.

The catch and release movement has largely been a good thing — and phone cameras have helped. Many of our fisheries are stronger than ever, and that’s largely because you don’t need the ceremonial stringer photo (which itself is not quite as dramatic as 10 fish nailed to a board) to prove what you accomplished).

Nevertheless, if you’re a completely unyielding absolutist when it comes to C&R, you need to lighten up a bit, Francis. There’s nothing wrong with taking the occasional fish or mess of fish to eat, as long as it’s within the biologically acceptable legal limits. Waste not, want not, and all that. Whether it’s crappies or walleyes or tuna, or even the occasional green trout, have at it.

My wife Hanna and her merry band of anglerettes headed to Lake St. Clair this past weekend to fish with the ultra-tolerant Spencer Berman and Eddie Pascua. They spent two mornings chasing walleye, but before they shifted to smallmouths in the afternoon they made a pit stop at the marina restaurant docks, cleaned some eater ‘eyes, and headed inside to chow down and swap fish stories.

For me, it’s hard to slow down during the fishing day, but the sheer enjoyment they had back at Sindbad’s Marina was a good reminder: Fishing comes first, but there’s nothing wrong with enjoying the spoils thereof — whether it comes in the form of a check, a trophy, or with French Fries and coleslaw on the side.

It shouldn’t always be about showing off what you’ve caught, but there can definitely be value and satisfaction in nourishing both your belly and your passion on the same day.