Recently, my husband and I went on a fishing trip and were fortunate enough to catch some beautiful Smallmouth Bass. The Smallmouth, a freshwater fish, is native to portions of the Ohio, Tennessee, upper Mississippi, and the Saint Lawrence-
Great Lakes systems of central and eastern North America. The Smallmouth is not only a gorgeous specimen to catch, but it is one fairly aggressive fish when it finds itself attached to the end of someones fishing line.
The Smallmouth is a highly sought after sport fish, especially in the area in which I reside. It is not uncommon that my husband and I will meet up with fishermen on our local rivers who have a stringer full of Smallmouth Bass. This practice has always bothered me. Many times, we will ask, “What are you going to do with all of those fish?” More often than not, sadly the answer is, “Put them in the freezer to eat later.” I’m guessing that about half (maybe more) of those fish are never used to prepare a meal. My gut tells me they probably get cleaned and put in a Ziploc bag in a freezer only to eventually be tossed out after they are no longer fit to consume.
My husband and I like to think of ourselves as conservationists, so we are CPR (catch, photo, release) only when we fish. The Smallmouth is so over-fished in our region, that we always release them back to the water in hope that they will continue to grown and spawn. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, it takes approximately three to five years for a Smallmouth Bass to become harvestable. In certain states, there is a minimum length requirement to harvest a Smallmouth Bass. However, in Tennessee where my husband and I reside, the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency stipulates a creel limit of 5 Smallmouth, but there is no minimum length indicated.
There are several groups that can be found online that promote Smallmouth CPR. One group in particular, the Missouri Smallmouth Alliance, works to educate anglers on conservation and catch and release practices. For more information, check out https://www.missourismallmouthalliance.org/
– Courtney Bennett, Tennessee