Ted Ellenbecker loves to fish and because he does, he fights for catfish conservation. In December of 2020, he was named to the Conservation Committee of the American Catfishing Association.
The Importance of Conservation
by Ted Ellenbecker
Catfish conservation will be successful if it satisfies both biological and social needs.
Conservation is the true foundation of the sport we love. Understanding its importance can help shape the sport and alter the future of the fishery. Conservation is at times misunderstood and at times gives birth to heated discussions because it is not as simple to understand, apply, or judge as many would think. There are many aspects to conservation that need to be better understood by all anglers in my opinion.
Conservation has been defined as, “…the prevention of wasteful use of a resource.” In this case, we are talking about either a fish species or a body of water. Several areas need to be considered if we are to prevent waste of the resource. And there are just as many ways that conservation or regulation can be enacted to positively impact our sport.
Let me give you some things to think about. To start with there are two types of regulations. There are biological “needs” and social “needs.” Each of them needs to be considered when there is thought of changing regulations on a body of water or for a particular species.
Many of the regulations put into play are socially supported because the anglers that use the waters involved support and believe a change will improve their sport. Fortunately, the Game, Fish, & Parks (GFP) organizations are starting to understand that many anglers spend hundreds of hours on the water and see many things that policymakers should pay attention to. The fisheries departments are now listening to what we say. But to have an impact or make a change there still needs to be a valid reason.
GFPs want evidence that change will be an improvement, even if it simply makes the sport more enjoyable for the anglers involved. This last statement is however the hardest part of conservation to get right. If we are successful, the result is a balance in regulations that supports the fish, the water, and all anglers that utilize the water.
In my opinion, this is why the “one over” regulation is a very useful tool in species management. The rule simply means that one fish of a certain length or longer may be kept. Just like the sign in the photo states, “Only one flathead catfish 30 inches or longer may be retained in the daily limit from this waterbody.”
The “one over” regulation worked because it satisfied both biological and social needs. This particular regulation achieves several goals that are important to the anglers as well as the species. To start, it retains some of the larger fish in the water that may otherwise be harvested. It also allows tournament anglers to weigh in the bigger fish. For those that want a bigger fish to eat the can legally do so. It also supports the CPR movement which results in more trophy fish for the future and I believe it’s safe to say we all want the opportunity to hook a bigger fish!
In closing, there is one more thing to consider. As with any sport, any species, any regulation, it is in the control of the user. In this case, the angler decides the future of the sport by supporting the regulation. To improve anything an effort to do so must take place. To improve a fishery the anglers must respect the fish, the water, the sport, and themselves while making an effort to improve the resource. Our sport is important, widespread, and growing. It is worth any necessary effort required to keep it growing!