Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming’s recent article “Why catch-and-release is killing, not conserving, Maine fisheries” (Aug. 11) was incomplete and misleading.

The issues presented are recreation, not conservation, and fishing, not fish. Saying “The widespread practice of catch-and-release in waters across Maine has thrown many ecosystems out of balance” is unfounded and dangerous, and flies in the face of modern fisheries management.

Likewise, for the statement that “And, so, the fishermen throw them back – usually under the assumption that they’re helping” – because they are helping. The reason the Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife will have trouble “(reversing) long-held beliefs that releasing a fish is a beneficial conservation practice and that killing any catch that will not be consumed is wrong” is that it is wrong – at least in the big picture.

And when IFW says (according to Fleming’s summary) that they “estimate 50 percent of the lakes and ponds suffer from an overpopulation of fish that they say is largely due to catch-and-release,” again, this is a gross oversimplification of a complex issue. The reason Trout Unlimited states (as Fleming summarized it) that “many fishermen still believe releasing fish always helps a fishery” is that it does – at least a natural fishery.

Implying that harvest is needed to maintain healthy fish stocks is misleading. What we are really talking about here is manipulating a population to address the desires of recreational anglers – more big fish, not a healthy population.

What is hurting Maine’s fisheries is stocking; nonnative fish introductions – including state-sponsored, high-impact angling; and the harvest of large fish. In the case of Sebago and Moosehead lakes, it’s a combination of all the above. While you can harvest your way into trouble, you can rarely harvest your way out of it.

Bob Mallard


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