What's That Law For?

By Tom Strothers | June 2, 1998
From Missouri Conservationist: Jun 1998

It wasn't too long ago that I found myself in a verbal contest with my wife, Sandi. I am a conservation agent, and I had just returned home from working a two-day assignment at one of our trout parks. I was telling Sandi about some of the violations I observed and citations I wrote.

I ticketed people who were taking more than their daily limit of five trout, people who were snagging fish and people who were using the wrong kinds of lures in certain areas of the park. It was this last issue that raised her eyebrow and started the discussion.

"Who cares what they use to catch the fish?" she asked. "Who cares if they use a rubber worm or salmon eggs or cheese where ever they want? Just as long as they don't catch more than their five fish, why can't they use whatever they want?"

I tried to understand Sandi's argument. She is from Chicago and has had little hunting or fishing experience. I could understand her position because no one had told her why certain lures are allowed in different areas at a trout park. More important, no one had explained to her at all why we need wildlife regulations in the first place.

The Conservation Department uses wildlife laws to control the activities of people who have an effect on the welfare of wildlife. While there are many reasons regulations exist, most can be explained or placed into three basic categories.

Protection of the Resource

We design wildlife laws to protect and conserve fish, forest and wildlife resources. The laws help ensure the resources are used wisely and fairly. Seasons and methods of taking wildlife are addressed with these laws.

An example is the prohibition of taking wildlife at night with the aid of an artificial light. This is an unfair harvest of animals when they are vulnerable, mesmerized by the glare of a light.

Another example is protecting fish and animals during their nesting season.

Equal Harvest Opportunity

We create some laws to ensure sportsmen get fair treatment. Daily and possession limits are an example of this type of law. These limits give each hunter or angler a fair chance at success. They are designed to allow everyone the same chance to use and harvest the same amount of wildlife.

Without daily or possession limits, those hunters and anglers who are highly skilled would be able to harvest a large number of fish and wildlife, leaving less for others to pursue and enjoy.

Protection of People

A large part of managing the wildlife resources of the state involves managing the people who use the resources. We would like to think that all outdoorspeople are safe, but unfortunately, like drivers, there is a small percentage of people who are not.

Not everyone knows about or practices safety when outdoors. Additionally, not everyone is ethical and responsible.

So laws are enacted to help keep people safe when they hunt and fish. An example is the requirement for a blaze orange hat and coat or vest while deer hunting with a firearm. This law helps hunters see each other, which reduces the chance of someone getting shot.

To bring us back to Sandi's question, there are several reasons why restrictions apply to the types of lures or bait a person may use at a trout park. In fishing, like any other sport, sportsmanship is key, and that means providing the fish a fair chance to escape. Live or natural bait, and soft plastic lures sometimes are prohibited because the fish are too vulnerable to harvest with them. And if the fish are too easy to catch, then there would be some who would begin to catch more than their daily limit.

Trout also have a tendency to swallow soft lures and baits and are then hooked deep in the throat or stomach. The chance of survival for a deeply hooked fish is slim.

To help reduce this kind of loss, certain kinds of lures or baits sometimes are prohibited.

Catching a trout on a fly rod is truly a skill-some would say an art. But fly fishing requires a lot of room, which is a rare commodity at a popular trout park. To help satisfy the special needs and interests of fly fishermen, fly-only or single-hook lure sections are set up at certain trout parks. This reduces congestion and groups anglers using the same fishing methods together.

When it comes to wildlife resources, sportsmanship increases the satisfaction of those pursuing and harvesting wildlife, rather than increasing the number of animals harvested. Without sportsmanship, hunting and fishing wouldn't be as fun.

This Issue's Staff

Editor - Tom Cwynar
Assistant Editor - Charlotte Overby
Managing Editor - Jim Auckley
Art Editor - Dickson Stauffer
Designer - Tracy Ritter
Artist - Dave Besenger
Artist - Mark Raithel
Photographer - Jim Rathert
Photographer - Cliff White
Staff Writer - Jim Low
Staff Writer - Joan McKee
Composition - Libby Bode Block
Circulation - Bertha Bainer