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5 Ways to Fish Responsibly

Fishing Image Gallery By fishing responsibly, recreational fishermen can help conserve local fish populations and habitats. See more pictures of fishing.
Sara Gray/Riser/Getty Images

When you grab ­your fishing pole and head down to the pond, you don't have a ­lot on your mind besides the hope that the crappie are biting. While you're probably familiar with the negative impact commercial fishing has had on worldwide fish populations, you may not realize that recreational fishing plays a part in that decline as well.

Studies show that while commercial fishing ­is the major player in depleted fish populations, the recreational fish harvest may nevertheless make up 12 percent of the global take [source: Cooke and Cowx]. For some at-risk populations in the Gulf of Mexico, sport catches can comprise more than half of the total harvest [source: Environmental Defense Fund].

­Recreational fishing doesn't impact only those fish that you keep. Even the ones you toss back may end up as casualties: More than 500,000 bass die each year due to improper handling in the state of Massachusetts alone [source: Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game]. Poor fishing practices can also harm other wildlife and even destroy entire habitats.

So whether you're heading down to the local pond with your rod or you're all suited up for a week out on the boat, putting the following five responsible fishing practices into play can ensure both the fish and your favorite fishing hole stick around.