During the spring and summer, one of my favorite outdoor activities is fishing, whether it’s a pond, lake, river, or mountain stream. Next week, I will be traveling to the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Park for a couple weeks of fishing and hiking. Part of ensuring that you are practicing proper outdoor ethics while fishing is following the Leave No Trace principles. This list includes a few ideas and principles from Leave No Trace that are specific to fishing.
1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
There are several steps you can take to plan ahead and prepare when it comes to fishing. This includes checking the weather before you head out, knowing the regulations (size, limits, types of bait) of the area you will be fishing, and recognizing the species of fish that are in that area. It’s also important to make sure you have the right type of license and stamps for the area you are fishing.
2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
Make your best attempt to use established trails, boat ramps, and campsites. Avoid trampling aquatic vegetation and wading in spawning areas. Enter the water where the bank is low or where there are gravel bars.
3. Dispose of Waste Properly
Make sure to pack out your trash. This includes your line, bait containers, and spilled food. Leaving trash behind can affect wildlife in the area and pollute the waters. Make sure you know the regulations when it comes to disposing fish remains. In most areas burying remains or placing them in deep/moving water is acceptable.
4. Leave What you Find
When practicing catch and release fishing, try using barbless lures. Wet your hands before you handle fish. Having a pair of needle-nose pliers works great for removing hooks. Try your best to leave the fish in the water when removing the hook. Make sure you wash fishing equipment (boats, tubes, etc) to prevent the spread of invasive species. This includes moving fish from one body of water to another.
5. Minimize Campfire Impacts
Using a stove instead of a campfire can help prevent long-lasting impacts. Try using fire rings that are already present. Keep fires small and only use dead and down wood that you can break by hand. Make sure to properly put out your fire with water after wood and charcoal is burnt down to ash. Pack out your cold ashes or properly scatter them.
6. Respect Wildlife
If you plan on keeping your fish, dispatch them with a quick blow from a rock or solid object. Try to clean and cook your fish as soon as possible, or refrigerate them quickly to avoid waste. If you’re in bear country, take caution when cleaning and cooking fish. Do not feed wildlife, as this will have negative effects. If you bring a pet, make sure it is well trained and doesn’t chase wildlife.
7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors
Avoid areas that are crowded, if possible. Non-motorized boats have the right of way over powerboats. Keep music quiet or use headphones. Listening to the sounds of nature is always best.
Hopefully these tips will help you when planning your next fishing trip. Following the Leave No Trace guidelines while fishing can help ensure we are being ethical and responsible in the outdoors, sets a good example for others, and ensures we can enjoy our favorite fishing areas in the future.