Voices from the River: Kiss the fish

By Eric Booton

I practice catch and release. I pinch my barbs and tie on barbless hooks when I can. I carry a rubberized net and am an avid supporter of the keepemwet movement. If you are following the Trout Unlimited blog I can pretty safely assume that you are familiar with the concept of catching a fish, gently removing the hook, and sending it back to its mysterious, underwater home.

But, there is a new evolution of catch-and-release fishing. Yes, the latest and greatest movement to revolutionize truly caring for the resource. OK, so it may still be an emerging practice… but here in the final frontier, the salmonids, trout, grayling and char are feeling the love of one fly gal.

Kiss and release, she calls it. A new method of catch and release, kiss and release embodies the same ethics, but with an added dose of passion. The same basic principles and steps apply.

I’ll walk you through it:

  1. Catch fish

  2. Net said fish

  3. Carefully remove the hook (while the fish is in the water)

  4. Now kiss it. Just a nice soft & wet kiss right on the lips (or cheek if you are shy)

  5. Release the fish!

  6. Finally, celebrate accordingly—highfive your buddy, take a snort of your favorite spirit, let out a savage cheer etc.

Now, some of you may be thinking, “Doesn’t it seem a bit excessive to kiss every fish?”  

I would answer yes, and then educate you that unlike catch and release, which is applicable in most scenarios, kiss and release is reserved for special occasions. These occasions include, but are not limited to:

  1. The first fish of the season

  2. A new species of fish that you have been targeting exhaustively

  3. A true toad of a specimen

  4. And of course, a Dolly Varden with painted lips that you simply can’t resist!

Yes, kiss and release is potentially a stretch for some. Me personally, I enjoy witnessing the practice of this fly gal (and admittedly dabble in it myself). But I understand her reasoning. For her, it’s a celebration after a long and dark winter dreaming of the next fish. It’s a sign of affection for a creature living in another universe, just stopping by to say “Hi” before being released back to the mysterious abyss. And it’s a sign of respect for our finned friends that capture our daydreams and frequent our dreams at night.

So, next time you are fishing some new water or chasing the fish of your dreams, bring your rubberized net, forceps, and maybe even some non-toxic, organic lipstick, and give kiss and release a try.

Eric Booton is the sportsmen's outreach coordinator for Trout Unlimited's Alaska Program. 
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