When someone asks why I release nearly every fish I catch, I have a friend who says “Tim likes to play with his food.”
I didn’t always do it this way. Much like Howell Raines, I was schooled in the Redneck Way. Sure, fishing was fun, but a bucket full of bluegills proved that I was doing my part to feed our family. I wasn’t just goofing off.
I still remember the first time I tried to release a fish—not because it was too small—but because I wanted to let it grow and make more fish. I couldn’t do it. We didn’t need the food, but I needed to show someone my conquest.
Most of the brook trout I catch are small, so when I let them go I ask only that they grow freakishly large for this little river, and—one day—reward me by turning an otherwise slow evening into one I will never forget. Too much to ask? Maybe not.