Yukoners love to fish with the 2nd highest participation rate in Canada (Source: DFO, 2015). For many, sport or recreational fishing is a way of life and forms part of their identity. A few outfitters, lodges and guides depend on income derived from providing sport fishing experiences to visitors from all over the world. Licensed anglers will spend hours on the water trying to catch a fish to eat, a fish to release, or just enjoy being outdoors. The concept of releasing fish for sport is highly divisive and polarizing and has been a deeply rooted social conflict in Yukon for decades. Many recreational anglers feel that releasing fish is the greatest sign of conservation and a true sign of stewardship. The fish will swim away to be caught another day, spawn and maintain the balance for future generations. Another passionate viewpoint often shared through social media and other forums is that releasing fish is “playing with food”, unethical, and causes unnecessary harm and stress.

It is estimated that 80% of fish caught in Yukon waters are released, either voluntarily because the angler practices catch and release or due to regulations where the fish did not meet specific size requirements. Some fish are caught repeatedly, and some will die after being mishandled. Couple with increased fishing pressures, effects caused by climate change and habitat have on fish populations.

Respect for Fish (respectforfish.com) is a local initiative, driven by anglers, which seeks to understand catch and release behavior and to provide best practices in fish handling to the public. We will be working with this local non-profit organization, First Nations Governments and Renewable Resource Councils in the coming months to help develop educational materials with the intent to prevent and reduce undue pressure on and damage to fish populations caused by improper handling practices that happen in Yukon waters. Please check back here periodically as we develop our approach.