A few weeks ago we hit a local pond, and the kids caught a mess of pumpkinseeds and blue gills - it was great fun. Emily was a slayer - though they were all released :)
The other night I got out when everyone went down, and hit a local stream - it was great... And all the fish were released.
Saturday we managed to hit the fishing derby at the gun club in my home town. I've been hoping to get there and finally was able! It's silly. The pond is maybe 1.5-2 acres and they stock it very well. The 5 and under kid's start first and get an hour. Emily hooked but then lost a fish, and Will landed his first trout with Mom's help. A chunky 13" rainbow. Pride does not quite describe what he expressed with his catch.
But it got me thinking - kids always want to keep fish. All of them. Some where that changes. And those who love to fish, tend to shift towards catch and release. But man, kids love to eat what they catch.
I think it's primal. It's just a basic human need - "Me catch food, me eat food" to channel my inner cave man.
It's not until some level of greater awareness is found that we realize we dont need to, nor should we keep everything.
That said, the pendulum likely swings to far at times. I see people freaking out (sort of) in blogs or forums related to fishing as if keeping any fish is akin to dropping chemicals in the water. Number one, if you are helping a kid find fishing - whatever. Allow them to experience it in whatever way gets them to love it! If you are a grown up and want to keep a fish or two now and then to eat, cool, rock on. Hard for a hunter like me to "cast stones" at anyone for keeping a fish. Heck, my dinner last night was wild turkey I shot yesterday morning. Doesn't get healthier than a big plate of veggies and wild game (or fish)!
That said, there are very concrete limitations on game harvest, and a significantly greater landscape for game to roam to avoid you as you hunt.
Trout in a stream. Even in a smallish pond. Much less space to avoid you. Much less of an ability to evade capture.
So, stocked trout, cool, keep a few now and then for a nice meal.
But wild trout, something that's just scraping by in many places. Lets protect them. They are not as adaptable as say panfish or bass or bull heads. Those other fish dont have to fight against stocked fish who compete directly for space and resources.
Now, that said, stocked fish are fish too. We all have a lot of fun chasing and catching them. Lets all help to push out those who choose to keep multiple times their limit or keep fish with no desire to eat them. Ill never forget, when I was a teen, and a guy held up a stringer of trout - probably 5-6 gorgeous fish - so he was done or close to it for that stream. One brookie had to be 18" (stocked - all of these fish were stocked) and he asked if I wanted them because he was going to have them in his car while he was at work and they wouldnt be good any longer.
Even as a kid I could see the insanity of that situation.
Sometimes... Limits are not there for reaching.
Enjoy the amazing resource we all have and can experience. Treat it like family. Treat it like you hope to be treated by others. Fairly, kindly, and with compassion.