Hello, Blog Readers!
The Blog has finally hit 250.000 views and I just wanted to say: that is awesome, folks! This is a great accomplishment for the Blog and its missions. Thus, I would like to take a moment for us to review together what exactly is the "Extreme Philly Fishing" Blog (i.e. why was it created), and what exactly are its goals (i.e. its mission).
The Extreme Philly Fishing Blog was created based on the grounds of free information for the open public. In other words, the Blog is a public space where anyone with enough curiosity can access. Keep in mind that this Blog is not a non-profit nor an organization: it's simply a free and personal Blog about fishing and everything that is related to it! Thus, Extreme Philly Fishing doesn't make any money with this Blog! There is a donation button for those who wish to contribute; however, that is not a must. Remember, folks: the world isn't always about "profit," even though we live in a society that is way too much about money.
Also, this Blog was created with the purpose of showing both anglers and the general public alike that fishing is never just about catching fish! In other words, fishing is never just about putting your line in the water and waiting for the fish to bite! A huge misconception towards our sport is that fishing is all about catching; however, folks tend to not realize that catching is only part of fishing (and not all of it). It turns out that fishing is a fun sport and it can also "become" a science and an art if practiced correctly. Let's not forget that every minor detail matters at the end of the day. Every little single piece of information helps. If practiced in a positive way, fishing jumps from a "bloody sport" to something that can greatly enhance one's physical and psychological abilities!
So, the remaining question is: what exactly does the EPF Blog focuses on, besides fishing?
There is a huge misconception in the City of Philadelphia when it comes to fish consumption. Even though the Schuylkill River and Delaware River have made a "comeback" in the past century or so, that doesn't necessarily mean that they are healed to a point where all fishes are healthy and "good eating." As a matter of fact, it's quite the opposite: most fishes in those bodies of water are contaminated with different types of heavy metals and PCBs (i.e. Channel Catfish, Common Carp, etc).
Here is a little summary of PCBs and heavy metals for those who are not familiar with it:
A. Polychlorinated Byphenils (a.k.a PCB)
Polychlorinated Byphenils (PCBs) were created in the 20th century for many different applications: transformers, capacitors, heat transfer systems, mining equipment (recall our problem with mine acid drainage?), natural gas pipelines, hydraulic systems, carbon-less copy paper, electromagnets, voltage regulators, etc.
The United States of America produced nearly 50% of the PCBs in the whole world from 1929 to 1979, when it was finally banned for giving away health illnesses. Therefore, as you can see, PCBs are a big problem mainly in the USA. Some other countries in the world have "PCB-free fishes," and other countries never even heard about it! Since 1979, PCBs are no longer produced. However, chemically speaking, they are extremely stable! For this reason, even after all this time, they are still here as an environmental contaminant.
In reality, "Polychlorinated Byphenils" are simply a mixture of a bunch of synthetic organic chemicals. The problem lies in its transmission: it can be ingested through food, through water, and sometimes even through the air. Though, the most common way of PCB contamination is through food. Health wise, a lot of build up PCB in the human body results in more production of carcinogens (cancerous cells); therefore, a person with high concentrations of PCBs is more apt to develop different types of cancer.
B. Heavy Metals
Below are the main types of heavy metals found in fish and where they are more likely to be stored at. The most important part of the fish for you to look at is its "muscle," since that is the "meat" of the fish. Also, please note that high and low concentrations vary among different Species of fish. The data below was taken from a generalized research paper on different types of heavy metals in fish.
High concentration: stomach, liver, gills, gonads.
Low Concentration: muscle
High concentration: gills, stomach
Low Concentration: muscles, liver, gonads
High concentration: liver, stomach
Low Concentration: muscles, gills, gonads
High concentration: liver, muscles
Low Concentration: stomach, gills, gonads
High concentration: liver, stomach, gills, gonads
Low Concentration: muscle
High concentration: liver, stomach, gills, gonads
Low Concentration: muscle
High concentration: gills
Low Concentration: muscles, liver
High concentration: muscles
Low Concentration: stomach, gonads
High concentration: liver, muscles, heart, gonad, brain
Low Concentration: gill, blood.
So, what exactly can we do in order to not get sick from eating locally wildly caught fish?
-- Anglers: follow your state's fish consumption guidelines. They are usually provided by the governmental agency responsible for fishing. In Pennsylvania, the PA Fish and Boat Commission provides us with their guidelines. According to the chart, respect the number of meals per month (in ounces), and learn how to properly clean your catches! Properly trimming and cleaning is fundamental to avoid contaminants! As you have read above, most heavy metals lie in the fish's internal organs. Thus, heavy metal contamination is reduced only to mercury, zinc, and iron after proper cleaning. Zinc and Iron are actually good to our body when consumed in small quantities; however, mercury is extremely harmful.
-- Consumers: avoid buying "locally" or "wildly caught" fish in small markets, especially when it comes to bottom feeders. Although not well-known, there is a "poaching" system in Philadelphia, where people catch fishes from local waters and sell them to local markets. Chances are that they are coming straight out of the Schuylkill River, Delaware River, or its tidal tributaries. Anyways...always check with the business owner where did those fish come from. If they are a trusted market, they will let you know! On a side note, you may be consuming contaminated fish without even knowing about it.
--- Over-harvesting/Selective Harvest ---
As the name implies, "select" what you are going to take home: that is the ideology of "selective harvest." Taking everything home -- from small to big, from Catfish to Perch -- is not a wise idea. That is the ideology of "over-harvesting."
First, let's talk about the concept of Selective Harvest. Before killing a certain type of fish, think about how that will affect you and your fishing, as well as the body of water where the fish came from. Before taking any type of fish home for consumption, you should seriously think about the following:
1. How exactly will that fish affect you?
-- Is it edible? Is it contaminated? Does the fish show any signs of illnesses? Parasites? If you said no to all those questions, then the fish is very likely edible and you may have a wonderful meal after taking it home.
-- Is it lawful to take the fish? Never forget to check the seasons, sizes, and creel limits for your state. Taking an illegal fish (i.e. Species wise, under sized, etc.) can be very damaging for both the ecosystem and the angler. The Game Warden usually charges a huge fine for possession of illegal fish, not to mention that they can be mean enough to confiscate all your fishing equipment! Also, one should take into consideration its own reputation in the community -- a person's reputation in the fishing community can drop dramatically if the community knows that the individual is not properly following the law. Now...would you really want to be hated by your fellow practitioners? I surely hope not...
2. How exactly will that fish affect the body of water where it came from?
-- Should I take that "Trophy Fish" that I just caught? Taking trophy fish home is certainly not a wise idea. I know that the thought of having it on a wall or showing it to people is very rewarding; however, trophy fish are usually the "alpha dogs" when it comes to giving birth to even bigger fish! It's really all about fish genetics -- bigger fish give birth to bigger fish. And according to the realm of Biology, that is not so different than human genetics -- whose child do you think will be taller: Yao Ming or Jackie Chan? So, there you go! Taking trophy fish from a certain body of water is the same as killing the fish's genetic code: the key in the production of even bigger fish. Instead, why not take a picture of that huge fish? Maybe place a ruler over it to show people its length and girth? Make a video, perhaps? The fishing community will be proud of you for releasing such a great catch and you will still have a memory for a lifetime! Be a good Samaritan.
-- Should I take home a "rare catch?" Similar to the trophy fish concept, there are certain Species of fish that are rare in certain bodies of water. Those should be released; otherwise, one would be helping with their extermination! Some species of fish in PA are already classified as "candidate" or "endangered" (i.e. Sturgeons, Longear Sunfish, Darters, etc), meaning that they should be immediately released. However, sometimes one needs to use common sense: if a Largemouth Bass is a rare catch in a certain watershed, that fish should also be released, candidate or not! Upon release, that fish can populate that watershed with more Largemouth Bass in the future. The same applies for all other Species of fish out there! Believe me, reader -- you do not want to commit a genocide.
Now let's talk about the concept of over-harvesting. Over-harvesting is the action of taking too many fishes -- more than the natural ecosystem can replenish in a certain amount of time. Here is a prime example: think of a small closed water pond with 500 fishes in it (fishes = different Species). If people go there everyday and take everything they catch, soon the place will run out of fish. That is common sense, right? Thus, the main idea is that fish take time to reproduce and grow. Most anglers don't usually realize how old a fish is after they catch it! For instance, most anglers will hold a Bluegill that is the size of their hands without realizing that it takes as long as 8 years for that fish to grow to that size (i.e. 9 inches, 0.50lbs = ~8 years of growth).
Therefore, next time you catch a big fish, try to understand that it took a long time for that fish to grow to its current size. Another example: it takes a Striped Bass 11 years to grow up to 20lbs (36 inches). It takes 9 years for a Walleye to grow up to 5.2lbs (24 inches). Taking fish in huge numbers equals population depletion. Don't forget, anglers: without fish, there's no fishing.
So, what exactly can we do in order to have sustainable fish populations?
-- Follow the laws and harvest only what is legal. While harvesting, practice selective harvest: release trophy fish and rare Species in certain bodies of water, so we can all have bigger and healthier fishes in the future. Don't forget to take that valuable picture that will support your fishing stories! =)
- Never over-harvest, especially in closed small bodies of water (exception for stunted populations of fish). Take fish in small amounts: only what you will be able to consume in a short period of time. Fresh fish tastes way better than frozen fish anyways! Also, never waste a fish: if you are killing a life, you may as well consume it properly or use it for other purposes (i.e. bait, fertilizer, etc).
--- CPR - Catch, Photo, Release ---
Let's not forget that fishing nowadays is considered to be a sport! In other words, we are long past the times when catching and consuming fish was a necessity for human survival. Taking that in consideration, fishing doesn't necessarily need to be all about taking the fish home and eating it. As a matter of fact, anglers all around the world are starting to practice this trend called "CPR" -- Catch, Photo, & Release.
In case of a big one, always make sure to carry your camera or your phone with you for a good photo! A photo on the wall is not only an awesome memory, but also solid evidence of your amazing fishing stories and fishing skills. =) I won't say too much about CPR here. Instead, I'll post here my favorite fishing quote from Lee Wulff (google him up): "The finest gift you can give to any fisherman is to put a good fish back, and who knows if the fish that you caught isn't someone else's gift to you?"
Support CPR, folks! :)
Summarizing the whole post...
Also, never forget: practicing fishing correctly means that you guys are helping this country -- your country. It means to stay involved and active in something that you love; it means to give back to the community; it means to fight for a better future, one with sustainable watersheds and bountiful fisheries. Never forget that it's because of you guys that Extreme Philly Fishing exists.