Imagine yourself happily walking down a lane along with family and friends, when you suddenly find a tempting tasty morsel of food you love dangled in front of you. You bite into it only to have a nasty sharp hook imbedded in your cheek or gullet and the next instant you are hauled up to the first floor of a building where you are battered to death. That’s what angling is… shikar in Hindi.
Angling and hunting are cruel “blood sports”.
Definition of Angling
Angling is a method of fishing by means of an “angle” – bent metal or fish hook. The hook is attached to a fishing line and the line to a rod. Fishing rods are fitted with reels with the function of releasing and retrieving the lines. The hook is “dressed” (read disguised) with live bait to lure unsuspecting fish. A bite indicator such as a float is used to show when a living creature has bitten the bait.
Travel packages and some holiday resorts promote fishing, horse riding, and other undesirable so-called “sports” like the packages offered by The Carlton, Kodaikanal Festive Heights and Mahindra Holidays and Resorts. Fishing and angling are in fact, a part of many packages offered to tourists because India is considered to be the “upcoming paradise for anglers”. They lure people with colourful advertisements into believing it is a family activity that bonds children and parents outdoors. They go to the extent of combining its promotion along with bird watching, trekking and mountaineering.
A tourist attraction for anglers who want to eat the fish they catch is called “sports fishing” (sic!) and is an added source of income to scuba diving and whale watching which is being promoted by the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation at Singhurdurg, under its coastal and marine tourism programme.
Several companies in Chennai also organise sport fishing, mainly for senior citizens. A cruel pastime, it involves going out to sea in boats to fish. The anglers catch, photograph and release fish such as the King mackerel, yellow fin tuna, marlin and barracuda.
It is said that due to greed of anglers, fish like the famous mahseer are fast depleting in number, nevertheless, trout, goonch (catfish), kalabasu and other fishing in India is being made popular by groups promoting holidays as mentioned. Angling in the Himalayas is considered fishing in remote and exclusive waters accessible only with the help of guides. People go fishing in the Sunderbans also.
Anglers hypocritically talk about their support to conservation and artificial propagation of rare fishes and even demand a ban on illegal methods of fishing!
Fish feel Pain
Fish feel as much pain as humans. Aquatic lives feel stress and pain when injured as they writhe and gasp for air. They all have complex nervous systems and there is scientific evidence that they undergo suffering and distress. Chased, confined, or otherwise threatened, they react as humans do to stress with increased heart and breathing rates, and adrenal hormone release. Bio-chemically and structurally the central nervous systems of fish closely resemble that of humans.
Research at the University of Edinburgh on rainbow trout concluded that fish exhibit behaviours often associated with pain and the brains of fish fire neurons in the same way human brains do when experiencing pain.
A BWC member, as a young girl recalled being accidentally “hooked” and related the incident and its impact: “…unbearable pain, shock, suffering, confusion, increased heart rate, breathlessness, embarrassment, fear injunction for life, stress, hopelessness, anger… one of my family members was about to yank the painful hook off my cheek, when we were stopped by the frantic fishermen… they said that if the hook was to be pulled out if would pull the entire flesh out and would leave a nasty scar. I was told it would become septic if not tended to by a specialist. I had a huge crown gathered round with people painting all kinds of scary and gory pictures. Some one even said I would have a hole in my cheek for the rest of my life. I was in tears… helpless… and in pain… while one distinct dialogue kept ringing in my head – don’t pull it out… it will tear her skin, become septic and will leave a scar for life. The pain I experienced was unbearable, and so was the embarrassment of having being made to walk to the local doctor to have it surgically removed. It’s been years now, but I distinctly remember the pain as if it were yesterday.
“That was when the first realization hit, an instant connection of how the ‘targeted’ fellow beings go through on a daily basis… leading to a simple question: Don’t fish feel the same pain that I do? They are much smaller, more fragile and absolutely can’t breathe out of water even for a few seconds.”
Live Bait Fishing
Leave alone the fish which suffer and die due to asphyxia at the end of the line, anglers care no less for the torture they inflict upon the live bait they use: minnows, succulent worms, live small fish, frogs, flies, etc. Peacock herl or flue (side fibres of feathers with eyes, usually bleached, burnt & dyed) is widely used for fly-tying by fishers. In addition natural silk lines (said to be soft, supple and skinny) are often utilised.
A tip for anglers on live bait can’t get crueller: “Never hook your live bait through the eyes. You want your bait to see the game fish coming after it. This excites your bait making it swim erratically causing the game fish to become more aggressive resulting in more bites. Also if you are casting bait hooked through the eyes they tend to come off the hook very easily resulting in wasted baits.”
Angling also injures aquatic birds like ducks and geese whose legs get tangled in the anglers’ fishing lines and hooks.
Fishing for Fun in India
Angling is classified into Mahseer, Trout and Sea fishing.
• Mahseer fishing: The Barbus Tor, popularly called the Mahseer or Tiger of the Indian Rivers, is one of the largest freshwater fish and one of the greatest fighting fish in the world. It is natural to Indian lakes and streams and can attain sizes up to 5.5 feet and weight over 50 kgs. Mahseer is generally found in the rivers of the Terai regions of the Himalayas, the Shivalik Hills in the north, and the river Kaveri in the south.
• Trout fishing: Unlike the Mahseer, the Trout is not indigenous to Indian waters. The Snow Trout is however found in all high altitude streams and lakes. The Trout has been introduced into various parts of the country with the help of trout hatcheries which are located in Kashmir and Kulu valleys, Agoda near Uttarkashi and Avalanche in the Nilgiris.
• Sea fishing: Luckily sea fishing as a “sport” is not popular in India although “game fish” like Baracuda, Mullet, Perch, Tuna, Marlin, Sail Fish and Sear are found off the Indian coast.
Tigers are not the only attraction at Corbett National Park, people are known to step off the tiger trail and go on a quest for the mahseer for which paid fishing licences are issued because this freshwater carp is endangered and can only be found in the Ramganga and Cauvery rivers.
So much for conservation… killing mahseer is not allowed and within a stipulated time the fish hooked on purpose has to be compulsorily put back into the water: the “playing” of fish is barbaric as it puts the fish through a long ordeal of stress, pain, fear, struggle, agony and torture. The average time it takes to land a mahseer is 1:1 ratio weight/minute – its weight is then recorded and photographed with the torturer by which time irreversible damage is done even though the fish gets thrown back into the water. The hook (even if barb-less) injures and traumatises the fish which will probably die of shock, inability to eat, or of microbial or fungal infections. Cutting the line and leaving the hook in the fish is worse.
In August 2011 Beauty Without Cruelty wrote a detailed letter to the Union Minister of Environment & Forests requesting that the intense cruelty involved in angling fish like the endangered mahseer be looked into and to ban the cruel practice of catching and returning/releasing fish back into the water.
Instead of writing yet again to the Ministry of Environment & Forests, in March 2013 BWC approached the Chief Conservators of Forests and Chief Wildlife Wardens about the cruelty and illegality involved in angling fish like the mahseer, trout and others. Several confirmed that taking necessary steps to stop anglers from catching and returning/releasing the fish back into the water.
The practice did not halt. In 2015 when the mahseer (not even small ones – the fish grows up to 9 feet) was hardly seen in Uttarakhand, no angling permits were issued in the Ramganga area. That the government encouraged this diabolical activity (of catching and releasing) as angling under licence for tourists, generating about Rs 40 lakh, is disgraceful. Simultaneously, the fish mafia grew in the Jurasi forest range and along the 80 km stretch of the Ramganga, upstream where the mahseer spawns, the fish began to be killed by poison and bombs particularly at Bhikiyasale, Motiyafaale and Dandhas. Unfortunately the tourism and fisheries departments of the state intend to start fish breeding and initiating fishing at Tehri lake and in other rivers. In order words, the mahseer will continue to be tortured and even bred to be tortured.
Catch and Release Instructions
Below is a step by step guide, reproduced as found on the internet, on how the horrendous acts of catch and releasing fish is committed:
“Why catch and release? A fish is too valuable a resource to be caught only once and a personal commitment to conservation adds fun to fishing. Size, season and bag regulations often make release mandatory.
“Stressed fish populations need help to recover. The future of sport fishing is in our hands.
“Making the catch:
Use hooks that are barb-less and made from metals that rush quickly.
Set the hook immediately.
Try to prevent a fish from swallowing the bait.
Decide whether to release a fish as soon as it is hooked.
Land your quarry as quickly as possible, don’t play it to exhaustion.
Work a fish out of deep water gradually, so that it can adjust to the pressure change.
Always keep release tools handy.
“Handling your catch:
Leave the fish in the water (if possible) and don’t handle it.
Use a tool to remove the hook or cut leader (use extreme care with large, dangerous fish).
Keep the fish from thrashing.
Net your catch only if you can not control it any other way.
When you must handle a fish:
Use a wet glove or rag to hold the fish.
Turn a fish on its back or cover its eyes with a wet towel to calm it.
Don’t put your fingers in the eyes or gills of your catch.
Larger fish can be kept in the water by holding the leader with a glove or by slipping a release gaff through the lower jaw.
Avoid removing mucous or scales.
Get the fish back in the water as quickly ads possible.
Protect yourself from injury by handling each species carefully and correctly.
“Removing the hook:
Cut the leader close to the mouth if a fish has been hooked deeply or if the hook can’t be removed quickly.
Try to back the hook out the opposite way it went in.
Use needle-nose pliers, hemostats, or a hookout to work the hook and protect your hands.
For a larger fish in the water, slip a gaff around the leader (fishing line) and slide it down to the hook. Lift the gaff upward as the angler pulls downward on the leader.
Do not jerk or pop a leader to break it. This damages vital organs and kills the fish.
Use a large hypodermic needle (or similar tool) to vent the expanded swim bladder on a fish taken from deep water.
Place the fish in the water gently, supporting its mid-section and tail until is swims away.
Resuscitate an exhausted fish by moving it back and forth to tow it alongside the boat to force water through its gills.
Watch the fish to make sure it swims away. If it doesn’t, recover the fish and try again.
Remember, a released fish has an excellent chance of survival when handled carefully and correctly.
Venting trapped gases from a fish caught from deep water:
Use the largest hypodermic needle you can find (#10 or larger) and remove the plunger. Insert hypodermic needle at a 45 degree angle, under a scale, near the tip of the pectoral fin and squeeze the fish gently. You will hear the trapped gasses escaping. Make a needle clearing tool from a piece of stainless leader wire to clear any tissues, etc. from the needle and leave this tool in the needle between uses. Sterilize the needle with iodine or alcohol after use and store it in a safe place.
Air bladder relief procedure is done only when it’s obvious the fish will perish without one last effort to save it.”
The above illustrate the cruelties involved with no reverence to the fish and its habitat. The second pointer clearly mentions that the angler is to decide on catch, if the fish is to be left or let to die of exhaustion. The hooks are to be made of metal that rusts quickly – what then happens to the fish? When said “keep the fish from thrashing” it plainly means do not let the creature that is gasping for air (oxygen in water) show signs of struggle. Hold on to it tightly so that a photograph can be taken which is obviously more important than suffering and life itself. It then moves on to talking about how one can remove a hook – a challenge since imbedded deep. It also clearly mentions that the vital organs of the fish are in danger with every catch. Stating resuscitate an exhausted fish by moving it back and forth or tow it alongside the boat to force water through its gills are positively unsporting. On being pulling out of deep waters, fish tend to secrete gasses that are fatal. So for the “sport” to be complete a hypodermic needle is inserted to make trapped gasses escape.
Needless to say, the very fact that any living creature is taken out of its natural habitat, even if it is for a few minutes, is nothing but a sadistic attempt at expressing ones own inner demons. And who is to keep a tab on the “care” each angler takes in handling fish?
To satisfy the desire of anglers to catch fish which put up a fight when hooked, several variations of “wipers” have been produced by biologists. This breed does not exist in nature but is a hybrid.
In nature, interspecies breeding rarely occurs, as fishes have different spawning rituals, times and areas so spawning fish are electrically stunned and captured. Females are injected to ovulate, eggs squeezed out and mixed with semen from a different fish species. Such research has caused countless severely deformed offspring. Sophisticated genetic manipulations continue to exploit fish not only for food but also for so-called sport.
Many anglers try to entice their friends to join their tribe. They consider fishing a rewarding “sport” and feel it helps them unwind and relax during the time they patiently wait with their fishing rods in hand.
Those who accompany anglers to rivers and lakes indirectly support fishing. It is akin to giving company to a murderer on his mission.