Letting a fish you’ve caught swim off to be hooked another day doesn’t exactly place you in the altruism big leagues with Oscar Schindler, but one takes one’s ethical opportunities as they arrive. For Mark Clemishire, a fly fisherman from Skiatook, Oklahoma, this qualifies as exemplary ethics, and attention should be paid.
It was about a month ago that Clemishire was plying his craft in Lake Taneycomo, Missouri, and after an epic battle, caught a monster rainbow trout he immediately dubbed Troutzilla. Measured at 31 inches long with a girth of 22 inches, Troutzilla almost certainly weighed more than 20 pounds, which easily surpassed the existing record for a rainbow trout. To get credit for his achievement, a big deal for a serious fly fisherman, Clemishire’s trout had to comply with Missouri Department of Conservation rules that required the catch to be weighed on department certified scales. But instead of etching his own name in the record books, embracing immortailty and a place in the Fly Fishermen’s Hall of Fame, if there is such a thing, Mark had some photos taken of him posing with his Catch of the Day, and let Troutzilla go free.
“If I had waited to get that fish to certified scales, it would have died,” Clemishire explained. “I didn’t want that to happen. It was in good shape when I let it go, and maybe someone else will get to catch it someday.”
This is exemplary ethics, fly fishing style: kindness, fairness, sportsmanship, reverence for nature and life. Oh, it could all go horribly wrong, I suppose. Maybe Troutzilla keeps growing, and a decade from now attacks and eats little Katie Winthrop, age four, who was standing just ankle-deep in the river as her horrified parents look on. Or even worse, perhaps the fish was the prototype for a race of mutant trout, raised by a mad scientist to conquer the human race. Freed to breed and lead his kind, Troutzilla could achieve his creator’s dream, and become the cruel leader of the vengeful fish masters who enslave us in the near, nightmarish future. In the event of such turns of fate, Mark Clemishire could well be overcome with guilt and remorse.
Well, he shouldn’t be. That’s consequentialism; he did the right thing when he let his prize live, showing wonderful priorities and embodying the essence of the sportsman. No one should blame him if we end up pledging fealty to the Supreme Trout; I know I won’t. Sometimes the most ethical of acts sets in motion a cosmic Rube Goldberg contraption that results in mayhem and tragedy. That doesn’t mean the act wasn’t ethical.
You did good, Mark. Whatever happens, don’t look back.
Source and Graphic: Kansas City Star