Commercial fishing. Most fishing purists cringe at the mere mention. These river bandits, who pillage the waterways of tons and tons of fish each year, won’t get many pats on the back at the ramp.
In many cases, they are made to feel completely unwanted, to say the least. But let’s take a look at reality.
First of all, here on the mighty Rock, commercial fishermen are only allowed to take rough fish. In other words, carp, sheepshead, gar, shad, mooneye and buffalo.
Now, these guys have been doing this for years here, and let me tell you that the populations of all these species are better than ever. Not only do they help keep numbers of rough fish at healthy levels, but they also are huge in assisting Department of Natural Resources officials in surveys of our catfish species.
Watching these guys raise nets, and the tactics they use to trap fish, is really a pretty cool thing to watch. There is definitely more to it than just dropping a net in the water. These are some of the hardest-working dudes on the planet.
Now on larger bodies of water, say the Mississippi, for instance, things are different. On the mighty muddy, commercial fishermen can also take catfish and other popular species of game fish.
People there have made their living commercial fishing for generations. Realistically, it does not seem to hurt the fish populations or the number of big fish available.
Personally, I see big fish brought in to market, and it makes me sick. I wish they could not be harvested, or at least not in great number.
So we are left to ask the question: Does commercial fishing hurt the river systems, or does it help? I believe each river system is different. I think some systems need to be regulated more closely.
On the Ohio River system, battles rage between fishermen and pay lake owners who purchase fish from commercial fishermen. These fish are usually monsters and are placed in pay lakes where people can pay to catch them again. Fishermen on the Ohio River swear the number of big fish they catch has taken a huge drop over the past few years.
So, you can see we are pretty lucky here.
But I can’t help thinking if it was more closely regulated, that big fish could be more easily obtainable for the weekend angler who doesn’t have the time to fish regularly. There would seem to be some kind of a more perfect balance where we could keep more big fish around. But what do I know, anyway?
Regardless of the side of the fence on which you sit, when it comes to this issue, you can probably make a pretty strong argument for why. I tell you this, though: no one can tell you where the fish are and what they are doing better than a guy who chases them around for a living.
So, like or not, they are probably here to stay. So you might as well learn something from them if you can.