We are firm believers of catch and release. To us, surf fishing is the ultimate recreation. It is excitement, adventure, meditation, and immersion all rolled into one. Fortunately, none of us need to eat our catch to survive. In turn, we believe the health of fish populations is far more important than the culinary variety of a hand caught fish.
Here is our reasoning, species by species, on why it makes sense to practice catch and release in the Southern California surf. Every fish makes a difference.
"Calico Bass / Kelp Bass" by kathleenreed is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.
Calico bass take many years to grow to maturity. They live in a small radius of reef their entire lives. Basically, each reef has a resident calico bass population, with the biggest individual specimens sometimes over thirty years old.
A personal anecdote: In 2019, I broke off on a fish at a favorite spot of mine. I went back three weeks later, caught a calico bass, and found my old hook in its mouth. These fish do not wander far from home.
White seabass were so overfished that in the 1980's their survival was seriously threatened. Thankfully, the hatchery program has contributed to a significant rebound in their numbers.
White seabass are less commonly caught from the surf than from boat, so as surf fishermen we must do our part in maintaining the numbers of seabass that roam our beaches.
"Probably the best picture of a white seabass I'll ever take." by sucinimad is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.
Almost every legal-size California halibut (22") in the surf is a breeding size female. They come close to shore to spawn. Letting these fish spawn instead of bringing them home for dinner potentially saves the lives of dozens of unborn halibut.
"Big California Halibut" by Ed Bierman is licensed under CC BY 2.0.
California sheephead play a pivotal role in maintaining the ecosystem. They are foragers, making sure that lobsters, urchins, etc. are not over inhabiting the kelp. By releasing these fish, we are doing our part in maintaining healthy balance of our reefs. Like calico bass, they are slow to grow.
"California sheephead" by Just chaos is licensed under CC BY 2.0.