Duncan Answers Grist Reader Questions
Duncan answers Grist reader questions.
The man is a poet.
Q: It seems to me extraordinarily cruel to get pleasure from tricking a fish into biting into a hook and then "playing" with the poor creature until it's brought out of the water to die. I suppose it's less reprehensible if fishers actually eat these fish, but so many simply throw them back in the water after playing with them. How can one who feels so much love for nature get pleasure from this sport which seems to me to be so cruel? -- Bruce Rosove, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
A: I always thank those who hate fishing for leaving more water for me.
My best answer to your question is in my new book, God Laughs & Plays, in an essay called "Agony & Hilarity."
Fishing is cruel indeed. Eating is cruel, often as not, for those of us who don't digest sand and gravel live off of other life-forms. It is also "extraordinarily cruel" that this interview is being powered by electricity that is wiping out migrating salmon and dumping mercury and sulfur on North America's waters and children and pregnant women. And it is extraordinarily naïve to think that anyone is going to want to protect ecosystems and natural processes about which they have no firsthand experience or knowledge. Read Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv or Gary Paul Nabhan and Steven Trimble's The Geography of Childhood on the separation of children from nature, and you might find it more reprehensible to sit here staring at a screen, or to drive a car, or to watch network TV, than to take a child fishing on a wild river. The fact is, those who have actually saved rivers and fish species have tended to be the fishermen and women who love them. Those who saved wetlands have most often been duck hunters. And so on. There is a mystery here that has to do with the words "love" and "sacrifice." This mystery has served the world well. Jesus caught, killed, cooked, and served fish to his disciples after the resurrection. I can't tell you how at peace this leaves me about my fishing.
Lord Byron felt as you do and condemned fisherfolk in his poetry. He also infected a large swath of Italy with gonorrhea. Fingerpointing is dangerous for all of us -- me most of all!