SA-LIFE Manifesto

I practice (as I've written, and talked about extensively) a very simple,  straight-forward approach to fishing. It is based upon set of guiding principles for all of my fishing activity.
  • Fish a prescribed slot limit on every body of water. you fish. Adhere to hooking ONLY that number; landing them or not.  Period.
  • Catch or hook - ONLY - the slot number of fish (species, size, location) legally permitted and you're done.  Period.
It doesn't matter if you reach these limits in the first 10 minutes of your trip or it takes a full, hard working 10 hours - or 10 days - of fishing. It doesn't matter if your time on the water is completely free or if it cost you a years' salary to get there.

When you hit that number ... you are done. It'll give new meaning to - 'studying the water closely'.
I love to catch fish. I love to catch a LOT of fish. And I love it as much as the next person. But, I ask myself - and ask YOU to consider the question as well: "At what price?"

For several years I've practiced the following guidelines in my own personal fishing activity. I call them the

Seven Axioms of Low-Impact Fishing Ethics or
[Pronounce it and Promote it, as ... SAY LIFE]

1. SELECTIVE HARVEST instead of Catch-and-Release.
  • SELECTIVE HARVEST (SH) means YOU and ME - the fisherman or fisherwoman - will make the choice (control the outcome) as to whether you harvest or release a fish. Applied to all waters, including those set aside as Catch and Release ONLY, Selective Harvest uses the guides of Axiom
    #2 (below) in conjunction with the local slot limits for fish on harvestable waters.

    • If a harvestable number is six (6) fish, of a given sport-fish species in the local waters, then the number of released fish will be six (6) fish; regardless of size; and fishing stops in that area. You are done fishing that area. You move on.

  • Selective Harvest Principles... Establishing a position of personal responsibility. This position informs everyone - yourself, other fishers and anti-fishers alike - you are willing and prepared to kill the fish, but retain the right-to-choose to release or harvest. Personal responsibility is therefore not legislated, but a visceral act of self-governance. YOU make the choice and accept the end result of YOUR choice.

  • Selective Harvest Principles and Set-Limits... The number of fish hooked, released or harvested, insures a minimal impact on that stretch, reach, bay, cove, run, channel - whatever water environment description applies - by you and your fishing efforts.

  • Selective Harvest Principles and Set-Limits...  By limiting the numbers of fish hooked, released or harvested, eliminates any chance of an 'assumed license'  to over-burden the fisheries resource.
2. ALLOWED number of  'hooked fish' becomes a set single digit number (<10). Fish hooked  Defined - for a given fishing region - as either
  • LDR -> Long-Distance-Release
  • SDR -> Short-Distance-Release
  • 2HH/R -> To-Hand for Harvest or Release
3. RoI- Region-of-Impact (RoI); This governor is strictly adhered to. In a given area, the number of fish for which hook attempts are made, has a serious impact on the resource from a recreational fishing venue.
  1. Region-of-Impact, defined as: The size of a given fishable zone/area with specific size definitions (a) and (b).
    • a) LOTIC WATER (flowing water) - 1/2 mile (approx. 800 yards or 700 m ) of linear stream;
    • b) LENTIC WATER (confined water, natural or man-made): as an area of 10-15 acres. The size of the area is subject to increase. The level of human fishing pressure and resulting impact changes the basic parameters.
NOTE: I will, at times, use a 'no-hook-fly' (a fly with a shank only remaining; minus bend and barb; to hold the body of the fly) that fish will rise to and 'take or mouth sub-surface'. Since there is no 'physical damage' in the process I will 'play an area' more than normal. But I am careful to not 'over do it'.
Belaboring a fish willing to rise to - or mouth - a fly, can cause unnecessary stress. If nothing else, such an action takes the fish away from time needed in actual foraging.
Repeated takes that offer neither bite nor bug, may serve as a training mechanism against the fly being used! So, unless you're into training more difficult fish to catch or subscribing to the anti-fishing mental conditioning proposals ... then I'd suggest you not overdue this either.
4. LIMIT to ZERO any fishing over nesting, or nested, fish. Barring all recreational fishing activity. Such an activity is just poor sportsmanship.
  • This includes walking-in-water (wading) or use of drag anchors on boats during a species breeding and or nesting times.
5. IMPLEMENT this Code of Conduct as foundational to all recreational fishing. Again, poor sportsmanship. It also leads to the destruction of heritage fishing opportunity.

6. FISH at all times, with methods and techniques, supported by scientific study, to be the least impacting upon a hooked fish, adhering to the following influential parameters:
  • specific body of water
  • time of year
  • species of fish
  • environmental conditions
  • previous stress impact upon the fishery (natural or man-made)
  • method of fishing
7. EXECUTE all personal actions and activity - in the field or away - in a manner that is least impacting on the vitality, long and short term, for any resource:
  • Land
  • Water
  • Wildlife

You betcha these are a tough rules. Some will no doubt even say they are austere;  many even say they are an unreasonable, set of guidelines. Impossible to maintain.

And, I will agree... in part.

For a society in which nearly all sensible protections have been abandoned, the notion of self-control is strifling. Society is speedily advancing in favor of a dangerous, deep embrace of a misguided, self-ordained notion of self-indulgence. This nonsense is promoted and sustained daily through the social education of young and old alike. Yes, given this environment, I can see where it is perceived as austere.

But, please do yourself - and future generations - two (2) genuine favors.

1) Ask the important questions: get the facts and weed out the agenda riddled lies.

2) Support the best actions TODAY, to will provide a lasting TOMORROW - based upon these three simple questions:
  1. Just how austere are these guidelines... really?
  2. How do the likely results compare:
  • long-term effects of limited to no-control in the use of the natural resources?
  • long-term effects of being responsible toward self-imposed restraints for the long-term balance of natural resources?
  1. Which losses in the end are unreasonable?
Whether it's facing:
  • Having no place to fish
  • No fish to fish for ... or
  • Being told it is illegal to even fish
THOSE - my fellow fishers - those are austere outcomes.

And this...

This is where the anti-fishing sentiment, growing within society, is heading. This erroneous mentality is expanding through the urbanized populace. Those who are physically and mentally out-of-touch with the reality of life in the outdoors are susceptible to this influence.

The loosely referred to outdoor sportsman who choses a path of greed, guided by consumptive actions, does very little to assist in good relations with others holding differing beliefs on natural resource use. They do NOT exhibit the practice of age-old notions such as:  fair-chase and Sportsmanship. Their actions and attitudes merely serve to aid and abet those who want to destroy our Fishing and Hunting Heritage.

Both extremes lead to only one very sad and avoidable conclusion:


I have been ridiculed by many fellow fishermen and fisherwomen, saying my proposal is just, too restrictive ... and unnecessary. I have been booed as a Chicken Little, falsely decrying the fall of our fishing sky.

Regardless of the rhetoric on all sides, we must be honest with our motives and our actions. If we want to retain the rights to our Fishing Heritage, we, the fishermen and fisherwomen will have to step-up and make the necessary changes to retain those rights to practice our Fishing Heritage.

The guidelines set forth in the SA-LIFE Manifesto are only too, restrictive when:
  • Viewed through the eyes of a person unwilling to accept a level of personal control - that feels or is perceived as uncomfortable. Disregarding the their necessity to insure tomorrow's fishermen/fisherwomen access to real water, holding real fish.
  • Those who refuse to acknowledge their part in the problems we face as fishermen/fisherwomen.
  • The SA-LIFE guides seem unnecessary to those self-blinded to the realities around them, bulldozing their way through social structures that are completely opposed to a way of life true fishermen and fisherwomen hold as Rights of Heritage.
Yes, our current legal system says we can continue to conduct the act of C&R for as many fish as we can attract to our hook(s) on a daily basis - within the confines of a posted fishing season regulations.

But ask yourself this basic question:

"Just because it's legal, does it always mean it's sensible... or right?"

Strong emphasis on always and right.

I'm sure many of us can recount occurrences, events and activities, deemed by social parameters as perfectly legal. However, their application proved they were NOT RIGHT!

Think about it... CHANGE is NEEDED - NOW!

If only 50% of fly-fisherman were to adhere to Axioms 2 and 7, C&R mortality rates and by-product mortality rates, would NOT be an issue.

Sure it feels difficult at first. Any change is hard, and a bit uncomfortable. Initially I felt cheated. But, before long - and quite frankly I was amazed at how quickly the adjustment fell into sync - I was enjoying more about the area I was fishing. More than ever before. My whole fishing experience improved.

By nature, for the serious fisherman/woman, details are a strong motivator. However, I found being so wrapped up in the process of fishing, learning suffered. The surroundings faded to black and I missed far more than I'd realized.

We are not alone in this dilemma. Many of our fellow fishers experience the same experience deprivation. This discovery becomes a revelation. The process of regaining the missing dimension in the fishing experience, becomes a powerful motivator. We begin to look at fishing all over again; with new eyes.

High-intensity fishing comes at a cost. In it we miss many equally, if not more interesting, scenes, events and activities than, we even experience at the end of the fly line.

Changing our fishing focus results in even more learning: about the fishing and the fish, and their environs. Slowing down, taking time and internalizing a richer, cleaner, clearer, more realistic picture of the environs being fished, made me not only a better fisherman, but a far more enriched human being.

After a while, I looked forward to going fishing every bit as much for all the side-bar-benefits of fishing as I did for the actual fishing itself.

Yes... this is what is commonly referred to as, the Experience.  Hey, don't knock it - until you've experienced it.

The value of enjoying our surroundings, is what actually brings most folks to fly-fishing in the first place. So, for most fly fisherman and fisherwomen, it's more a matter of, '...dancin' with the one what brung ya', rather than merely doin' the dance.

Food for thought...

Unfortunately we have a few picky eaters in the fly-fishing community. Let's hope those who would slough this off as just so much brie and wine sauce, would actually do their own research. Look into the actions, words and delve the hearts of our forefathers of fly-fishing. Otherwise, the future of fly-fishing -of all types of fishing- is moving toward a rather grim prospect.

Food for thought indeed. I do hope this "Manifesto of the Seven Axioms for Low-Impact Fishing Ethics" is chewed on, considered and discussed, by each person who reads it, for a long time.

But not too, long. We really don't have all that much time. This is a matter of LIFE and DEATH. If we take too long, we will bog down in details and in the meantime we loose all of what we hold so dearly.

The LIFE or the DEATH of our Fishing Heritage is at stake. For the sake of future generations just...



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