Fishing etiquette is a lot like table etiquette

2013-09-28 00:00

IF you catch a fish and it is wearing a tie, it was probably on its way to a dinner date and you had better release it. Unless of course, you need a meal more than the fish does, in which case you had better fillet it and serve it up for dinner.

September often sees the start of the jigging season. Jigging refers to the method of fishing by manipulating one or more hooks so as to pierce a fish in any part of its body instead of luring the fish to take the hook or hooks into its mouth. Anglers cast as many as four unbaited hooks into the water and then reel them in, striking multiply in an attempt to hook a fish.

In previous years, Msinsi has closed the dam to anglers in September. This is done in an attempt to preserve and respect the breeding patterns of many fish species. This year, Albert Falls has not been closed and though many anglers have respected the spawning season through personal preference, boats have been spotted on the dam every day for the last three weeks. The boats that cruise the perimeter of the dam in the search of sport fishing are not breaking any rules, they are licensed anglers who typically practice catch and release. Their impact on the sustainability of fresh water fishing is negligible. The impact of the men and women who practice illegal jigging on the other hand is not but, how do you tell someone that they can’t fish to put food on the table for their families?

Jigging is not a pretty practice. There is no sport in it. Fish are not lured into biting a hook or tricked into thinking that they are going after their next meal. Rather, fish are ripped from their breeding nests as local jiggers place cast after cast in the shallow waters that act as nurseries to many fish at this time of year.

Fish are being plucked from their breeding nests as locals go in search of bass, carp, Tilapia and barbel. The last week has seen these anglers target Khayalami Bay in their numbers with up to 35 anglers lining the banks at one time. That these anglers are unlicensed is an irrefutable fact.

The issue of jigging is a hot topic. Many licensed anglers get their lines in a knot at the mere sight of these illegal fishermen wading into the water. Times are tough, the cost of food is on the rise and who can really blame local anglers for using the resources available to them to feed their families?

The issue is not with the fishing, it is with the technique that they are using to catch fish.

Fishing etiquette is a lot like table etiquette and spending a day on the dam can be just as embarrassing as going out for dinner at a fancy restaurant if you don’t follow the proper protocol. Some anglers will idle up to a structure that another man has been fishing for the last half hour and then make himself comfortable casting at the other angler’s marker buoy. There are rules to angling. Rules that are not always observed but, rules nevertheless. They are there to make the whole experience more enjoyable.

For the anglers that line Khayalami every other day, the only fishing etiquette that they are aware of, is that they had better catch a fish or they won’t be having any protein with their dinner. Catch and release is not an option for these men and women. That other anglers aren’t too pleased with how they go about landing a fish is probably of no concern to them.

Anglers entering through the main gates of Albert Falls believe that it is Msinsi’s job to police the banks. Reshuffling the responsibility will not solve the problem. Jigging fishermen will most likely become more careful in their attempts to catch a fish. They will begin fishing in the evening when it is more difficult to see them or they may move to more remote sites where other anglers won’t find them. The real solution to preventing illegal jigging is for more anglers to take an interest in educating these men and women so that they can learn to catch a fish by using more acceptable methods of angling. The term “development” is thrown around so often at fishing AGMs that it has become one of those catchphrases, like “social responsibility”.

It sounds pretty, but it has lost its meaning.

This is the perfect opportunity to put the term development into practice and to teach other anglers about the sustainability and ethicality of fishing. It is not only Msinsi’s job to do something. It is our responsibility as anglers as well. After all, if we aren’t willing to do anything about it, then how can we expect others to do something on our behalf?

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