When I was a child, I was taught that killing fish was supposed to be relaxing. It was a time to bond with family and friends; a game, or rather a sport, called “fishing”. Thankfully this lesson didn’t stick and even before I became vegetarian and then vegan, I realized that any activity that ends in watching another animal die cannot be called a game or sport; for any true sport requires all players to be willing participants.
The memory I have pieced together from the last time I ever caught a fish is this:
My family and I were in Montana visiting relatives. And as we did almost every time we went back, we decided to go fishing with my grandparents and cousins. We started the day early, perched next to a clear stream hoping to catch a fish for dinner before the warm summer sun cooked us instead.
My father took out a Styrofoam container of earthworms from the local tack shop and baited the hook of my fishing pole for me. I watched him dig the barbed metal in and out of the earthworm’s body, ensuring that as this worm struggled against the hook, slowly drowning underwater, it would not free itself and float away.
My father cast out the line for me and let it drift into a hole near the bank, which was bathed in shade. This, he said, is where the fish were probably hiding. He handed the pole to me and I waited with my cousin, as the earthworm drowned nearby. I don’t remember how many worms or how much time it took, but suddenly the line tugged, and we reeled in my first and last fish of the day.