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Page 17

Those Pay-to-Fish Places

Across the U.S. are a number of private enterprises that sell access to waters that are heavily stocked with fish. These places vary from a half-acre man-made pond (situated on one acre of land) to thousand-acre-plus resorts or preserves complete with overnight accommodations, restaurants, tennis courts, jogging paths, and many other amenities. The basic business premise is the same, though: Guests pay for the privilege to cast a line in waters that are heavily and frequently stocked with fish, usually trout. Typically there is an admission charge as well as a per-pound charge for fish kept, and at many of the pay-to-fish places that I know about, anglers can't throw back any fish they catch.

There are both advantages and disadvantages to these enterprises. On the plus side: If you want the makings for a fresh-fish dinner, you'll come home with something to fry (even if you don't catch anything, which is highly unlikely, you can usually buy fresh trout on site). Beginning anglers (and children) who haven't had much luck on non-pay waters can at least find out what it's like to have a fish on the end of the line, and practice skills such as setting the hook on, playing, landing, and unhooking a fish. And most are clean, well run, and efficient. After all, they want your return business.

The disadvantages: The waters are like nothing found in nature. These businesses make their money by people killing fishremember, no throwbacksand for that reason want to make sure that customers don't have to work hard to catch some. If the fish are in the mood to eatand they usually are, since a minimum of natural forage exists in these waters and the abnormally high numbers of trout in them creates fierce competition for what is thereit's possible to catch fish almost as quickly as you can cast a bait or lure to them (as an adolescent I once caught a trout at a pay-to-fish operation on a bare hook). This means that you can catch $30 or $40 worth of trout in less time than it would take you to buy them in a store. Finally, because catching fish is so easy, the beginning angler learns nothing about real-life fishing: reading and approaching the water, casting accurately, making a proper presentation, discovering natural forage of the fish, finding out what the fish will hit through experimentation with various lures and baits, and so on.

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Fish Recipes

Fish Recipes

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