Imagine that you’re a fish, darting around your watery home and finding tasty snacks to enjoy. Now, imagine that you bite into one of those snacks and suddenly feel searing pain as a sharp hook rips through your mouth. You fight against it, but the painful hook is pulling you up toward the surface of the water. You struggle until every last ounce of your strength is gone. You’re then hoisted into the air, away from the safety of the deep water, and that’s when you begin to suffocate.

sw_wa_fishing 063 | Photo By: Jseattle | CC by 2.0 
This is why fishing is not harmless family fun. Fish have nerves, just like cats, dogs, and humans, so they can feel pain. Hooked fish endure not only physical pain but also terror. When they’re removed from their natural environment, they start to suffocate. Just imagine the horrible feeling you’d experience if you were trapped underwater. It’s the same for them on land! Once out of the water, fish’s gills often collapse and their swim bladders can even rupture because of the sudden change in pressure.

Fish Head | Dawn Endico | CC by 2.0 
When fish are grabbed and handled by humans, the protective coating on their bodies is disturbed. This makes fish more vulnerable to predators when they’re thrown back into the water.

Caught a fish. | BuzzFarmers | CC by 2.0 
Fish sometimes end up SWALLOWING hooks, and anglers often try to retrieve them by shoving their fingers (or even a pair of pliers!) down the fish’s throat. This tactic rips out not only the hook but also part of the fish’s throat and guts as well.

Fishing trip at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal | USFWS Mountain-Prairie | CC by 2.0 
Studies show that many fish who are caught and thrown back into the water suffer such severe psychological distress that they actually die of shock!

Channel Islands 08 07 | Renee V | CC by 2.0 
Fishing doesn’t only hurt fish. Millions of birds, turtles, and other animals sustain debilitating injuries after they swallow hooks or become entangled in fishing lines. Wildlife rehabilitators say that discarded fishing tackle is one of the greatest threats to aquatic animals.

Duck with fish hook embedded in it | TexasDarkHorse | CC by 2.0 
Why torture animals for “fun” when there are so many other wonderful outdoor activities? Please encourage every angler you know to try hiking, canoeing, or camping instead!

Share this with your friends and family, and check our list of awesome things to do that don’t hurt animals!