MY SON TRIED TO SAVE A TROUT this past weekend.
We were fly-fishing in the Missouri Ozarks on a cold, spring-fed stream. It’s a trout ranch. Property owners stock the stream with plenty of trout.
There’s enough trout that the license people buy is called “catch and keep.”
That means if you catch it, you keep it.
There’s a reason for that: money. When you catch fish, you have to turn them in for weighing. The ranch charges over $4 a pound, which is a lot less than the grocery store charges.
While we were fishing, what appeared to be a freshly “caught and not-kept” trout floated our way.
My son netted it because he saw it was still barely alive, moving its mouth and trying to breathe.
With the fish still in his net, my son began pushing it through the water, to run the water through the gills of the fish so the fish could breathe. It was a bit like fish cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
My son-in-law, nearby, reeling in a fish he had just caught yelled over at my son. He said to hold the fish by the tail, and that might encourage the fish to start swimming.
My son tried coaxing the fish for about five minutes. There were moments when we thought the fish would swim away. Its mouth was moving and the gills were beginning to flutter. There was even slight action in the tail.
But the fish could not sustain any of this. When my son tried to release it, the fish rolled upside down every time.
My son-in-law, with his fresh catch, yelled over, “Time of death?”
He talks like that because he’s a doctor.
The fish is in my freezer today. It will be on my grill sometime soon, marinated in lemon pepper sauce and cooked on a cedar plank.
As my son explained, before putting the fish on his stringer, “You see a deer on the side of the road dead, and you take it home and eat it.”
He was kidding. You knew that, right?
We weren’t hurting for fish.
We didn’t need this fish.
We didn’t want this fish. It was somebody else’s “catch and keep.”
But it was a beautiful fish.
It deserved some respect. Certainly more respect than floating downstream, belly up.
As disrespectful as it sounds, it deserved a place on my plate, beside the rice and asparagus.
We bought it. For about $6, I’d guess.
If the Genesis writer knew what he was talking about, God made us caretakers of Earth.
Even if the Genesis Creation story isn’t meant to be taken literally, for all practical purposes we are, in fact, the Bosses of Earth.
God said about the humans,
“They’ll be in charge of the planet: the fish in the water, the birds in the sky, and the animals on the ground. Sky high to ocean deep, they’ll make the call about what happens on the earth” (Genesis 1:26).
God also said,
“I’m giving you the animals as food” (Genesis 9:3).
It might seem that food doesn’t deserve respect.
Try living without it for a while.
We probably shouldn’t take for granted that trout will always be with us.
I know I don’t take for granted that I’ll always catch one.