29 August 2012

The Problem with Rock and Surf Anglers

I have been walking along beaches most of my life and enjoy what I find and see. Last week I had to think for a while before I could work out what the dead thing was.

Fishing with bait on a line has several disadvantages. In the first place you don’t really know what you are going to catch. If you are an ethical angler and you catch something you do not want you simply unhook the fish or shark and release it back in the sea. If the creature was not too injured or stressed it should survive.

If you are an idiot angler and are scared of what you catch or just lazy you simply cut the line and leave the creature to its own devices and you do not care whether it lives or dies. It is difficult to work out what happened to this large stingray. The hook and bait were still down its throat but the wings were removed. I guess the lazy angler hacked off the wings and threw the body back into the sea. I hope the skate was dead as this is sounding more and more like shark finning where the fins are hacked off the shark and the shark is thrown overboard to drown slowly.

There are many aspects of this that irritate me but I always come back to the hazards of fishing line and fish hooks. If you look to the sides of the cadaver you will see many footprints of the seagulls that were scavenging off the skate. There is a good chance that one will reach the baited hook and impale itself trying to get at the bait. If it does not do that it can entangle itself in the fishing line – this also normally has fatal consequences.

Another possibility is that you come along the beach walking on your bare feet enjoying the texture of the sand when you suddenly encounter the sharpness of the hook in your foot. The consequences are painful and sometimes it is really difficult to remove the hook. Sometimes you have to draw the hook backwards to get it out. Trying to cut off the shank of a hook stuck in your foot with a pair of pliers (if you are luckily enough to have pliers with you) is very painful. Another exciting way for this to improve your day is that your dog will find the baited hook and swallow it. It is never easy to remove a hook from a dog’s mouth and if it goes any further into the dog’s digestive system you will have massive veterinarian bills to pay.

Perhaps the most disruptive way of finding a hook like this is if I child walks on it. Apart from the trauma, pain and possible infection you have to get the crying child to a general practitioner. There are many wonderful ways to ruin an outing to the beach and finding a discarded fish hook really irritates me. But the person who caught the skate has also allowed another painful end to a day at the beach come into play – by discarding the ray in this way you have to bonus of being able to step onto the venomous spines. While I have not experienced this myself I have seen what pain it causes. Interestingly the best way to alleviate the pain is by placing the wound in hot water as this breaks down the toxins.

Funny how fishing and its equipment remains primitive and that the behaviour of the fishermen with the disposal of fish hooks, fishing line and their catch has remained despicable.

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