The Washington Times - August 1, 2008, 11:24AM

It’s not new to Europeans, but if an edict came from the U.S. government that catch-and-release fishing would henceforth be forbidden, there’d be large numbers of anglers with pitchforks and torches marching on Washington.

What American recreational fishermen have turned into an almost national mania — the catching of a fish, then carefully removing the hook and putting it back into the water, perhaps to be caught another day — is frowned upon in some European countries.

I remember the Germans not long ago calling for a halt to all catch-and-release fishing. At the time, the German authorities said if you catch a fish, eat it, don’t let it go. Such silliness goes directly against American ideas of conserving a natural resource while providing much-needed recreation during days of tough workplace demands, high living expenses and questionable economic situations.
   
And now comes sweet little Switzerland, insisting on being crowned the No. 1 wacko in Europe.

Switzerland says in 2009 it will ban catch-and-release fishing. To be fair, the official proposal said it will not permit any fishing with the “intention” to release the fish. As far as I’m concerned, that means the banning of catch-and-release fishing.

Not only that, Swiss anglers might be forced to take a course on humane methods of catching a fish. (How do you do that unless you stop someone who has thoughts of tossing a dynamite stick into a trout stream? That certainly wouldn‘t be humane.)

It could be that the Swiss are suffering from a kind of Alpine altitude sickness that affects good judgment. Something is definitely wrong in “der Schweiz” because the country’s federal legislature says a fish must be killed immediately by rapping it sharply on the noggin with a blunt instrument. I suppose most of the fishermen over there now will be going to the water with baseball bats strapped to their belts.

In addition, the government also says the use of live bait and hooks that have barbs will be verboten.

By the way, Switzerland has 275,000 sport anglers, which isn’t bad when you consider that the country is about the size of Cleveland. OK, we’re having some fun here; actually it’s a little bigger.

But what this ban on catch-and-release fishing is really all about is the new-found gentle, touchy-feely nature of the Europeans. 
I wouldn’t be surprised if the European Union soon banned shadow boxing, arm wrestling and tree climbing. A body could get hurt, for heaven’s sake.

Meanwhile, it was the American trout angler who made the catching, admiring, photographing and subsequent releasing of a fine rainbow, brown or brook trout popular. Noble as it is, it didn’t catch on massively until the founder of the international Bass Anglers Sportsman Society, Ray Scott, forced participants in large cast-for-cash fishing tournaments that his group conducted to put the bass into an aerated live well, have the fish weighed and tallied, then released alive. If a fish was found dead, the angler would be penalized. More often than not the released bass rebounded splendidly and many were caught again and again.

Scott’s idea caught on fire among well over 50 million American sport anglers. If properly done, voluntary catch-and-release fishing is endorsed by biologists, fishing federations of all stripes and most of all plain every-day recreational owners of rods and reels.

It’s a good thing, too. For example, if the 30-plus million American bass fanatics alone were to whack each of the fish they caught over the head with a blunt instrument and carried them home dead, within a couple of years there’d be no more bass.

But the Swiss, the Germans and other Euro do-gooders wouldn’t understand that.