Sunday, May 3, 2009

Cruelty to Animals

The joy went out of fishing for us today.

I turned over a garden bed while Willow plucked worms out of the rich earth and added them to her fishing can. Early afternoon we headed over to the pond.

There was a truck parked along the road, and the Firebird hesitated. A woman was coming up over the stream bank and crossing the road. I could see someone fishing on the dam, so I said, "It's all right, they're not at the cove," and we headed to our favorite spot.

The kids got a few nibbles and we could see the guy on the dam wasn't having much luck. Then he was joined by two women and another man, returned from the stream. The two guys both had poles going, and pretty soon they started reeling in fish. I could tell they were small ones-a couple medium sized bass that didn't look like keepers. A couple times I could see the guys arm jerk after reeling in a fish. I never did see him release any, but he might have been setting them into the water next to him.

Then the kids saw a fish rise and jump within casting range, and got rather excited as they thought the fish were really jumping. The Firebird noticed that the fish rolled belly up and then would flop. Then we saw another. Willow started flipping out.

"They're killing the fish, Mommy, you have to do something!"

"Oh no, they caught another one *sob* YOU HAVE TO SAY SOMETHING"

Between the flopping belly up fish and my crying daughter, I could stand it no more. Willow wanted to go with me so they could see how upset she was. I told her to stay put with her brother.

I made my way over to the group on the dam, and said,"Hey, how's it going? I'm glad to see you all are having a good time and catching a lot of fish, but a couple of the ones you have caught have floated back into the cove and my daughter is crying and very upset. If you have to rip the hook out, could you please just chuck them over the dam so they don't float back into the cove? We like to fish here a lot and don't like to see dead fish floating in the cove."

One of the women kept nodding and saying, "ok" and the guy she was with glanced at me a few times with dirty looks. I didn't notice the other couple too much during my speech.

I went back to the kids who wanted to leave, and I had been planning to leave, and then thought better of it and said we should stay, mostly because I didn't want them to move over into the cove and continue their antics.

The Firebird opted to leave, and a few minutes later the foursome left too. By then the closer of the two flopping fish had drifted a little closer to shore further up, so I walked over for a better look. I could see they were small pickerel, what a lot of people consider "trash fish", since they are very bony.

The belly of one looked a little odd, but by that time I started worrying about repercussions-meaning retaliation towards me for speaking out. They had seen us arrive and the Firebird leave, and knew where we lived. So we left- Willow was too upset to fish anymore.

It was only a little later I realized what I had seen. I had thought that the flopping fish had swallowed the hook and the jerking arm was the guy ripping the hook out, which is a death sentence for the fish. That is why I cut the line if they swallow the hook and I can't easily remove it.

That is what the fishing regulations say to do, claiming that the hook will rust out quickly and the fish will be fine. Just cut the line as close to the hook as possible.

But the facts started adding up: that both fish were pickerel, and I had also seen him reel in small bass, the mark on the belly, and the fact they were using lures and not worms (worms more likely to be swallowed) Horrified, I put it together. The guy had deliberately sliced the fish in the stomach and tossed them back. Yep, to die sufferring. That bastard.

I spent some time afterwards wishing I was a big tough guy and had realized when I was still there. I would have punched the guy and pushed him into the pond.

Yes, I know we harass the fish catching and releasing them, and we torment the worms by impaling them on the hook-so are we much holier than he?

In my own defense, I will say that I cultivate the worms-I feed them compost and aereate the soil. Every year there are more and more in the garden. I am very selective about the ones we take-and make sure to leave plenty where they are. As soon as we get home, the remaining worms go back into the garden.

The fish we care about too-I have tried to teach the saplings how to catch one in a way that hooks them correctly. I wet my hand before touching the fish, since I was told years ago a dry hand takes the natural oils out of the fish and harms them. I try to remove the hook as quickly as possible and enjoy watching them swim away more than watching them come in.

I don't care what kind of fish we catch since we let them all go anyhow. I don't really like pickerel myself,(think slimy alligator with fins) but I feel what that guy did was outright cruel. Makes me wonder what other things a person like that is capable of doing? :(

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