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December 08, 2016
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How many, how big?

There are many renditions of the stages in a fishing life. Usually they go something like this: I want to catch my first fish. I want to catch a lot of fish. This is followed by: I want to catch the most fish and the biggest fish. Next, I want to catch the “hard” fish (the most challenging). Then some tempering comes in, often with age: I just like to have a lovely day on the stream and maybe catch a few fish. By the time the angler starts using words like lovely, we are probably talking about a grey-haired person. The penultimate stage may be something like: I just want to be in a beautiful watery environment amongst the gifts of nature, and it does not really matter if I catch a fish or not. These are the anglers who sometimes catch the finest fish, because in a Zen way they are more effective by not trying too hard. The pinnacle stage is fishing through others. Joan Wulff observes: “Having experienced good catches myself, I can enjoy another angler’s catch as if it were my own.” Certainly, that’s the crowning stage.

You notice in the later stages that a fisher might use “lovely” or “splendid,” but in the earlier stages the fisher is looking for a “hawg” or “pig.” Seasoned anglers do not use the word “hawg” to describe a splendid fish.

Some of this relates to whether the person is a fisher or an angler. A fisher is someone who catches fish, often for consumption, sometimes commercially. The fish may or may not be released. An angler is one who is more engrossed with the art of fishing and often becomes immersed in the history, literature and handcrafted bamboo rods and is preoccupied with fine casting and delicate presentations. Catch and release is the norm. These are the type of people you would likely find to be supporters of the Catskill Fly Fishing Center at Roscoe, NY, a great organization. Catch and Release is not limited to trout. Ray Scott, the founder of Bass Masters, is proud that his organization releases alive 98% of the bass caught at its tournaments.

This all leads me to competitive fishing and whether a fishing contest is the type of thing either a fisher or an angler would want to engage in. Generally I would shun any type of competitive fishing, recognizing that many of us are always in competition either with ourselves or our fishing partner, even if nothing is ever said about it. But I can and do support the Zane Grey Fishing Derby, which runs through July 6, and you can Google it on many sites for the particulars. The objectives, which are to foster awareness of Catch and Release, promote youth fishing, help celebrate “Pike 200” and the Zane Grey Festival, are in fact worthwhile. All you have to do is pick up an official ruler at your local sports shop and photograph your brown, rainbow, or brook trout, or small mouth bass, placed on the “official ruler,” and email it to along with the name of the angler, age (if in youth division), and certify that the entered fish was caught in Zane Grey waters and was promptly released unharmed to the water. Dead fish are not eligible.

The goals of the derby are worthy, and I encourage readers to snap a picture of their catch on the official ruler and email it to There is no entry fee. Even if your entry is not a “hawg,” every entry (you may enter multiple photos) makes you eligible for the grand prize. The grand prize will be drawn at random from all the entries submitted and is an amazing Old Towne Canoe, complete with paddles and lifejackets generously donated by Johnson Outdoors Watercraft.

Good luck in the contest, take a kid fishing, catch a splendid fish or even a “hawg,” and if you are lucky enough to win the canoe, please be sure to wear the lifejacket.

E-mail me at for comments and upcoming events.