It was not until I learned about the wild salmon, steelhead and trout of the pacific northwest that I became enamored by fish and their remarkable life cycles. The life cycles of salmon and steelhead are nothing short of a miracle. Whether potamodromous or anadromous, salmon and steelhead endure a life of seemingly impossible hardships.
Once I learned more about special fish like the wild salmon, steelhead and trout of the PNW, I wanted to pursue them with passion but protect them in the process. This led to a love for all fish species which has developed into my personal set of “standards” and fishing practices.
My passion for fishing led me to Alaska to pursue a career as a fishing guide. Since moving here and guiding these waterways, I have come to know anglers from all walks of life and all corners of the globe. The one thing we all have in common is a willingness to be open to understanding the resource and protect it.
Each angler goes about this in their own way. Movements like #keepemwet, #trybarblessforaday and so on, help raise awareness in our community that there is a higher standard to achieve. Not a better way to look cool while taking fishing photos, but a better way to pursue fish. To me, standard fishing regulations are merely the baseline for this pursuit.
For example, in the waters I guide in Alaska, an angler can conceivably use barbed hooks, treble hooks, harvest trout, fish for trout with bait and take most fish out of the water and so on. Though my individual choices go beyond the standards set forth by the laws, I understand that change happens slowly and open-minded anglers will gravitate to better fish handling practices.
The one thing I would caution is our approach to other anglers. The challenge is to educate without bashing fellow anglers or thinking you’re better than someone else because of the way you do things.
Though most of my fish are kept in the water and handled with the highest level of care I can manage, I still have photographic evidence of a “former angling life." I can be seen holding fish by the gills, laying them on the beach and so on. There isn’t an angler in the world that has a perfect fish handling track record.
I constantly see people bashing anglers online for poor handling techniques and picking apart their methods for pursuing fish with various different rod choices and tackle…. My plea is that we engage our fellow anglers with patience and lead by example, while at the same time realize that we have not matured into the anglers that we someday will become.