Why This Vegetarian Started Fishing Again

by | Sep 20, 2018 | Lifestyle

I learned to love fishing at the small lake behind my grandparent’s house. Visiting family was fine, but I was in it for the fishing. My grandpa would pull out the simple bamboo poles and a container full of wiggling nightcrawlers for bait. I would walk my way around the lake edge casting out my line in pursuit of little sunfish. When I got a bit older, I gained row boat privileges. With a boat I was able to access even more prime fishing spots, which made me feel like I was becoming a master angler. My interest in fishing began at this humble lake, but instilled a passion for the sport that remained with me for years.
Two Kids Fishing in a small lake
As a teen, I saved up money to purchase my own fishing gear. I would break a rod down into my backpack and bike to a nearby storm runoff creek. I had so much fun trying to outwit the bass, sunfish, and catfish that lived in its pools. I learned what kind of habitat the fish liked, how they were affected by water level, weather, and time of year. I found myself fascinated by these beautiful and resilient underwater creatures.

I don’t think I am alone when I say that learning about the behaviors of fish led me to sympathize with them. My interest in the sport of fishing was strong, but something about ripping them out of the water for sport started to seem unkind. Catch and release was recreation for me, but a huge disturbance for the fish.

There are documentaries on Netflix about the food industry that I think we all avoid watching. In college, I made the mistake of watching all of them. A lot of them are a touch extremist, but they offer a lot of jarring information about sustainability and animal cruelty that I felt I should know about. These films changed my worldview, and part of that was an understanding that catch and release wasn’t just unkind or inconsiderate to fish: it was just gratuitous cruelty.

I retired my rod and reel.

Sad looking fisherman walking to the right. The photo is black and white.
Fast-forward to age 27 when I decided to take a long haul road trip to Alaska in a truck camper. Once I reached the Yukon territory in Canada, I went to a visitors center and was fascinated by all of the information about the local fish management techniques. I learned all about the local species and I felt a rush of excitement as I was reconnected with my past love of fishing. I found myself itching to fish the cold, clear waters that ran through the dramatic Yukon landscape.

Over the past few years I had been slowly reintroducing meat into my diet with a focus on buying local, sustainably grown meats when possible. After talking with the Yukon locals about their fish management techniques, I felt secure in my decision that catching and eating fish from these waters could be quite sustainable. The next day I went to a local outfitter, bought a very basic set up, and went out to fish in the Yukon river.

Big yellow truck carrying a camper with two bikes attached to the grill in the foreground over a background of mountains
It had been years since I had been fishing. As I got out my gear, it all came back to me quickly. I tied my lure on and headed down to the water. I had never fished cold water species like this, so I had a huge mountain of doubt as to whether I would succeed or not. An hour passed, and cast after cast I wasn’t having any luck. Right when I’m getting ready to call it a day, I cast out and I’m shocked when I see my line go tight. My heart raced as I began reeling in the line as quickly as I can.

I pulled out a beautiful, edible, Arctic Grayling. I knew it was finally time to learn how to clean and cook my own fish. I was nervous about taking it’s life but I felt confident I could do it humanely. About fifteen minutes later I was enjoying the freshest fish meal I had eaten in my entire life. I was overcome with a feeling of satisfaction, but also a feeling of gratitude for nature and the wonderful sustenance our planet can provide for us.

Author of this blog holding a dead fish
Now I fish during my travels from my inflatable kayak. I eat fresh arctic grayling, northern pike, rainbow trout, and I hope to add salmon to this list someday soon. I’m incredibly grateful that I’m able to combine my favorite pastimes all in one. When fishing regulations are properly observed, I believe catching your own fish can be an excellent source of sustainable protein. I can travel, appreciate nature, fish, and cook delicious food all at the same time.
Filleted fish
Fishing kayak over a very cold looking inlet
Lake water looking at a blue cloudy sky and some mountains
Let us know what you think!

What keeps you fishing? What do you do with the fish you catch?

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1 Comment

  1. Corey

    Great story Lukas! Welcome back to your favorite pastime.


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