Time to abolish fishing

Sport fishing, like dog fighting, “entertains” at a high cost to the animals. But violence toward weaker, unwilling animal participants should never be entertaining. Public and legal recognition of this is overdue.

I have not always held this view. In fact, the arrival of spring evokes fond memories of season-opening fishing trips. My father and I would ignore the inevitable chill of April in upstate New York and head to a local lake. We never left with our limit of trout, but that did not matter. We really went to enjoy the outdoors and, most of all, to be together. We spent entire days next to one another, sometimes talking, sometimes silent. I will always cherish the peace of those days.

That said, I will always regret the suffering I caused. Along with the good times, I remember scenes of misery also. I can still see the flopping tails of the fish struggling while I ripped embedded hooks from deep within their gullets. Many released fish would go belly-up, having fought for their lives, been overhandled on shore and then inadequately resuscitated. Those destined for my plate were kept “fresh” on a stringer, going lifeless in the shallows with a nylon cord penetrating their bleeding, overworked gills. The less “desirable” fish, such as carp, were tossed over my shoulder, condemned to a slow death of suffocation in the grass.

Thankfully, I came to see the irony of celebrating my love of nature by hunting some of her most beautiful creatures. My dad, a man of integrity and compassion, understood and respected my decision to stop fishing. We still go to the park, of course, but now we hike around the lake instead of torturing its inhabitants.

Come spring, we anticipate baseball’s first pitch, not fishing season’s first casualty. Last year, rather than wade into icy water, we sat together in a frigid ballpark on opening night. Dad and I still have all we did when we fished, minus the pain, deception and death. We continue to enjoy the outdoors, its peace and each other’s company.

In the end, no one needs to maim or kill aquatic animals to enjoy nature and to share time with friends and loved ones. Fish are as capable of suffering as are the dogs we care for and live with. Accordingly, it is time to abolish fishing, both as individuals and as the civilized society we claim to be.

Dan Paden works for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals