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Thread: Snagging defined.... time for a change?

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    Member fishNphysician's Avatar
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    Default Snagging defined.... time for a change?

    In Alaska, "snag" means to hook a fish elsewhere than in its mouth (see "Prohibited Acts").

    The legal definition of snagging most assuredly varies from state to state. Perhaps it's time the rule-makers reconsider the definition within the context of the modern-day fishery. Especially on Alaska's most popular river fishing for Alaska's favorite meat-market quarry, the sockeye.

    Since this is all about the recreational pursuit of fish with rod and reel (angling), it would be beneficial first off to consider the definition of what constitutes "snagging" from the perspective of angling ethics.

    If the fish is chasing the gear in willful pursuit, it's legitimate angling from the perspective of "fair chase". This is the most fundamental element of our chosen sport... the fish is enticed to willfully strike the angler's offering. From an ethical standpoint, snagging is simply hooking a fish that does not willfully bite the angler's chosen presentation. If the gear is chasing the fish, then it's snagging, pure and simple.

    From the standpoint of willful take, it matters not which way the poky piece of metal finds its way into the fish's mouth.... whether inside-out or outside-in is completely irrelevant as long as the hookup is the result of willful take on the part of the fish. The fish willfully bit and was hooked in its willful pursuit of the gear. Who cares which way the hook goes in!

    In WA, willful take is the key element in defining whether or not the fish is legal to keep. As long as it was hooked in active pursuit of the gear, a fish can be hooked anywhere on the head and it's legal to keep within the constraints of the current season/bag limit for that species.

    It gets a bit stickier in AK when one considers a meat-market species like sockeye where flossing has clearly become the entrenched method of recreational harvest. It's how the overwhelming majority of sockeye are LEGALLY harvested with hook/line.

    Flossing IS most assuredly snagging from an ethical perspective.... the gear is clearly chasing an unwilling fish that wants no part of the "presentation". But willful pursuit is nowhere to be found in AK's legal definition of snagging. Alaska's version of snagging is defined simply as hooking the fish somewhere other than the mouth. Snagged (gear chasing the fish) in the mouth is perfectly legal in the Great Land. Snagged anywhere else is NOT.

    Flossing is universally accepted by the users and the managers alike. It allows a meaningful, orderly recreational fishery to efficiently harvest sockeye by the hundreds of thousands. The most controversial aspect of flossing (as evidenced by at least 3 concurrent threads discussing the subject) is hook placement. It all boils down to this.... is one form of legitimized snagging (inside out) really any more "legitimate" than another (outside-in)? That seems to be a real hangup for a lot of folks... the ones insisting that their version of snagging holds the moral high ground because the sharp poky piece of metal first penetrates from within the mouth.

    Indeed there is considerable ambiguity in the phrase "in the mouth" and how it is enforced. Some overzealous LEO's have been quoted as stating inside out is the only legal penetration, but that is NOT literally specified in the regs... it's simply individual interpretation.

    Your thoughts?
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    Cool 'nuff said . . .

    Quote Originally Posted by fishNphysician View Post
    If the fish is chasing the gear . . it's legitimate angling . . snagging is . . hooking a fish that does not . . bite the angler's . . presentation.

    Works for me . . .

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    Moderator AKmud's Avatar
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    Only one problem I can see Marcus....who decides if the fish was "chasing the gear" when hooked? Kinda hard to see the event under water...
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    Quote Originally Posted by AKmud View Post
    Only one problem I can see Marcus....who decides if the fish was "chasing the gear" when hooked? Kinda hard to see the event under water...

    Who decides?


    God or conscience, take your pick . . think "intent."

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    Default Biters is biters.....

    Trolling, backtrolling, direct downstream presentation from an anchored boat.... all presented with lines behind the stern of the boat..... the fish is CLEARLY chasing the gear.
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    Well, since I don't fish anywhere but in Alaska, I would have to say that unless the pointy thing is going from the inside of the mouth, to the outside, I would release it...I wouldn't want to take a chance of getting a ticket and thrown in the pokey. Fish that willfully bite usually have the pointy thing from 'inside to out' as they engulf the presentation, and their lips close down on it, the point of the pointy thing protrudes to the outside, or is down further in their mouth, and you can't see it at all.
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    I can see the court case now. Judge, that fish there as evidence A intent was to chase my gear. The fact it is hooked in the back and with my hook means it was really aggressive, missed the line, and turned around to take another shot when it misjudged the turn and got hooked. Not guilty of snagging your honor and since I am innocent until proven guilty you need to show the intent of the fish. I am waiting to hear the fish intent - oh yea he is dead. Case closed.

    Snagging laws on the Kenai are intended to meet an allocation objective - less so a moral question about what is or what is not snagging. The inside the mouth enforcement keeps the harvest down and remember the sport fishery has an allocation above the sonar site that must be followed. If there was snagging of fish in the head then the harvest would go up and of course that is allocation. While the snagging law is statewide and I think the reason there is what Doc says the Kenai is different. So Doc how would you write the regulation to allow the present fishery but maintain harvest levels at the same time?

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    Here's the challenge...

    Biters can be legitimately hooked inside-out or outside-in. It's my contention that either should be legally retainable.

    NON-biters can also be snagged/flossed inside-out or outside-in. If it's hooked through ANY anatomic structure that comprises the mouth.... mandible, maxilla, maxillary plate, palate, tongue, or any part of the oropharynx/buccal/branchial cavity, my contention is that it should be legal to keep.

    Writing that reg is another story altogether. Think you can lend a hand?
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    Quote Originally Posted by fishNphysician View Post
    Here's the challenge...

    Biters can be legitimately hooked inside-out or outside-in. It's my contention that either should be legally retainable.

    NON-biters can also be snagged/flossed inside-out or outside-in. If it's hooked through ANY anatomic structure that comprises the mouth.... mandible, maxilla, maxillary plate, palate, tongue, or any part of the oropharynx/buccal/branchial cavity, my contention is that it should be legal to keep.

    Writing that reg is another story altogether. Think you can lend a hand?
    How about an inch from the mouth, or behind the gill plate? Sorry I don't write the regs, so I can't lend a hand. I detest snaggers and there are enough of them up here snagging already. That fish in the picture just doesn't look like a true biter to me.
    "Grin and Bear It"

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    Snagging in river.. eh..


    I say legalize it, and lower the bag limits for the rivers to make up for the allocation issue. That way, people are in and out faster, they leave less trash, take less dumps on the beach, and LE doesn't have to waste time on snaggers.

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    "snag" means to hook a fish elsewhere than in its mouth

    I believe just eliminating the word "IN" would solve a lot in terms of the flossing debate inriver.

    What will prove more difficult is writing a non-conflicting rule to accommodate biters hooked in the jaw, snout, face, operculum... as often happens when trolling in the salt or perhaps backtrolling/anchoring in the tidal mainstem of the lower river. Any biter coho in tidewater should be a legal keeper. Requiring its release is just as likely to result in a dead fish.... only on the river bottom.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tearbear View Post
    I detest snaggers that are rip-snagging intentionally and there are enough of them up here snagging already.
    So you would like the regs to be re-written so you can legally catch them in the head up in Alaska....like it is where you're from?
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    The goal is to allow the retention of any fish hooked by means of a legitimate presentation that entices the fish to strike of its own free will WITHOUT the angler fearing he/she has done anything wrong.

    Obviously, flossing sockeye is in another category altogether. It is CLEARLY intentional snagging (gear chasing the fish), but almost universally tolerated/accepted by both the users and enforcement. If it's all about snagging them in the mouth, who really cares which way the hookpoint penetrates?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tearbear View Post
    That fish in the picture just doesn't look like a true biter to me.
    Seriously?

    Have you ever fished a diving plug in the river for salmon?

    Do you even understand the mechanics of the presentation?

    The ONLY way a large garish diving plug ends up in that location IS a willful bite.
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    Quote Originally Posted by fishNphysician View Post
    The ONLY way a large garish diving plug ends up in that location IS a willful bite.
    Totally different situation, but we often catch sablefish while longlining in the head right between the eyes. There is absolutely no way that a sablefish just happened to bump into our hook down there in the inky depths - they're obviously trying to bite the bait and in the process get the point of the hook elsewhere. I wouldn't suggest that we allow head-hooked salmon to be kept in freshwater, but it illustrates that at times a fish which is pursuing the gear will end up with the hook in a place other than the inside of the mouth.

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    Default Outside-in is snagging? Really?

    So which one of you would throw this one back?

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    For the record, there is a VERY legitimate reason to intentionally hook a fish from the outside-in.

    Long before my method of flossing reds with circle hooks, I devised a highly reproducible system for hooking willful biters outside-in. Google images for 'eyeFISH hangback' if you are curious.
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    Quote Originally Posted by fishNphysician View Post
    Seriously?

    Have you ever fished a diving plug in the river for salmon?

    Do you even understand the mechanics of the presentation?

    The ONLY way a large garish diving plug ends up in that location IS a willful bite.
    Perhaps you need a lesson on the mechanics of presentation.

    Any avid fisherman knows that salmon (and fish of all species) will commonly chase, swat, and explore a presentation using its lateral line, with no intention of ever opening it's mouth to feed or take the lure/bait. So it would not be uncommon to hook a fish somewhere other than near it's mouth as it does this, particularly if the presentation had erratic action and/or multiple hooks. As Brian M points out, aggressive biters can also get snagged in odd places throughout their bodies. I've caught Kings in the tail, Lake Trout in the belly, Marlin in the back, and Bass in the side and Pike in the ass...all legitimate catches of fish "chasing my gear in willful pusuit."

    Also, Sockeye can in fact be caught legitimately in the mouth, inside-out, using the right technique, right gear, and under the right conditions. They will "bite". Two days ago while anchored fishing Coho (in baitless area) a Sockeye consumed my small bead with yarn - yep inside-out. Not to mention I have caught many over the years on a spin-n-glo and eggs inside-out. I once caught a biting sockeye in Hidden Lake on a chartreuse spoon while trolling for Trout.

    fishNphysician is simply our Washington armchair expert once again trying to impose his "perspective of angling ethics" on Alaskans. More regulation mantra.

    I submit that the angling ethics for what fishNphysician calls, "Alaska's favorite meat-market quarry" are unique to Alaska and Alaskans, and quite different than his Washington ethics. Like it or not, with millions of sockeye available, Alaskans find it quite ethical and sporty to "floss". The current regulations work. If someone from Washington doesn't like them, they don't have to fish.

    Quote Originally Posted by Nerka
    Judge, that fish there as evidence A intent was to chase my gear. The fact it is hooked in the back and with my hook means it was really aggressive, missed the line, and turned around to take another shot when it misjudged the turn and got hooked. Not guilty of snagging your honor and since I am innocent until proven guilty you need to show the intent of the fish. I am waiting to hear the fish intent - oh yea he is dead. Case closed.
    That would be a legitimate argument (aside from the regulation "in the mouth"). See my comment above.

    Quote Originally Posted by Nerka
    Snagging laws on the Kenai are intended to meet an allocation objective - less so a moral question about what is or what is not snagging. The inside the mouth enforcement keeps the harvest down and remember the sport fishery has an allocation above the sonar site that must be followed. If there was snagging of fish in the head then the harvest would go up and of course that is allocation.
    That's odd. When there is a surplus of in-river sockeye above the sonar the "snagging" rule still remains in effect, while instead the daily bag limit and posession limit are liberalized to increase harvest.

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    Moderator AKmud's Avatar
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    Thats a good one Marcus . Sadly I don't think either choice plays a part in the decision making process for many people these days.

    Quote Originally Posted by Marcus View Post
    Who decides?


    God or conscience, take your pick . . think "intent."
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tearbear View Post
    That fish in the picture just doesn't look like a true biter to me.
    Quote Originally Posted by fishNphysician View Post
    Seriously?

    Have you ever fished a diving plug in the river for salmon?

    Do you even understand the mechanics of the presentation?

    The ONLY way a large garish diving plug ends up in that location IS a willful bite.
    Yes I am serious, and I have caught, kept, and bonked salmon many times, from a boat, in the river, backtrolling with a diving plug, inside to the outside of the mouth. And I would never keep any that were hooked accidentally in the chin as your picture shows, as up here it will surely get you a ticket, regardless if you tell the Wildlife Trooper, "That fish willfully bit officer"...If you don't like our regs the way they read...read your own States fishing regs. You are the one being willful here concerning the rules.
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