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I have had this question for years. I have never seen a tournament rule prohibiting culling a dead fish. It is actually illegal by DNR rules, though. It is illegal to "discard fish ofal" in any waters in Michigan. "Fish ofal" includes dead fish, I am told. Since there is a general rule in most (all) tournaments prohibiting you from breaking any law, this is violating the tournamnet rules. Even if you disagree, it is certainly not the high-ground morally to throw a dead fish back in the water so you can keep a live one (try explaining this to a DNR guy when the dead fish you're throwing back puts you one over the limit). Many states prohibit culling completely and this is a major reason why. It is also ammunition for the "antis". If it were to become general knowledge that we tournament fisherman "routinely" cull dead fish to increase our weights, watch out. To many, the only legitimate reason for fishing is for food. Anything else is cruel. So, we are "wasting" food so we can continue to be cruel to more fish than we are legally entitled. Doesn't play well to the liberal media.

My personal rule is that if it's dead and legal, it gets weighed in, no matter what the cost.

I have had this moral dilemma also when I've caught and inadvertantly killed a sub-legal fish. Keep it and risk a fine? Throw it back and waste the fish and risk the fine? Decisions, decisions . . .
 

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I love a good lively debate. It's a free country, you pays your money and you takes your choice.

The interpretation of a dead fish as ofal came from a DNR officer I posed this very question to. Dead minnows are also ofal. Luckily the gulls will eat them before the DNR shows up.

I would not want to pull out my dictionary and split hairs with the judge about what is or is not ofal. Especially when the DNR is writing tickets for the crime of having tubes in your boat on St. Clair in May.

Here's a good test: put 5 live bass and 1 dead one in your livewell, find the nearest DNR officer and request a possesion limit check, in full view of the officer, throw the dead one in the water and say "I'm not over the limit, I only have 5 fish in my posession". See what happens.

Legalities aside, my personal view is that this is not a "sporting" thing to do and I won't do it. If you do and get away with it, I guess you win. If it becomes too common, I bet we will lose our ability to cull at all.

To me this is the moral equivalent of shooting a small buck, and before you can track it down you see a bigger one, so you shoot it too, and then you "can't find" the first one. You can't "throw back" a dead deer, or a dead fish in my book.

Dave, I was in OCBA a few years ago. Very good club.

P.S. - I caught a really big (48") musky a few years ago out of season. Unfortunately, it tore itself up pretty good before I got it in the boat and it died. I had to let it go and watch it sink to the bottom. Broke my heart.
 

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MadWags, I was exagerating to make a point. It is not illegal to have tubes in your boat in May. However, DNR has made a very public effort over the last few years to write tickets for "intending" to catch bass out of season. Not to hijack the post, but it has been widely conjectured and rumored that having a rod rigged with a tube and fishing in an area known to have lots of bass in May is an invitation to getting a ticket.


East Coast - season before last my livewells broke down and I threw back what would have been a winning stringer instead of having them die. Of course, I didn't know at the time that it was a winning stringer, it was a very mediocre weight so I thought we were out of the money. Turned out everyone else had a rough day also and we would have won had we kept them alive. Another lesson learned . . .
 
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