NEW ULM - "Some people go fishing during church services. They say, 'it's better to be on the river thinking of God, than in church thinking of fishing,'" 63-year-old Scott Sparlin, past president of the New Ulm Area Sport Fishermen and Executive Director for a Clean Minnesota River (CCMR), describes the passion of fishing.
For Jan Schuetz, a 26-year-old male passionate angler from Gnzburg, Germany, fishing is not an escape from life, but often a deeper immersion into it, quoting one of his favorite sayings.
So both America and Germany share a passion - fishing. Or maybe, let's break it down to Minnesota and Bavaria, New Ulm and Gnzburg. However, there are some big differences between how people here and there go about it. Not all regulations correspond and not all traditions are the same.
Staff photo by Elena Kretschmer
Jan Schuetz displays his record fish, a 40-pound carp.
Scott Sparlin with one of his catches, a river walleye.
It starts with simple things like the kind of fish people hope to catch.
"Walleye and catfish are probably the most popular ones people fish for in rivers here. In lakes I would say it is bluegills, large mouths and some others," said Sparlin.
Schuetz states that in Germany, it doesn't really matter to people what they catch. "They like any fine fish like pike, walleye, trout, catfish, perch, eel and carp. Among younger people however, there is a trend towards carp fishing," he says.
For both Sparlin and Schuetz, their gear consists of their rods, reels and their tackle box. Because Sparlin usually fishes from the boat, that is another item he needs. Schuetz in turn is a shore fisher. Therefore, he brings along bank sticks, bite alarms, an unhooking mat, a weigh sling, a chair, a bait bucket and his boilies, especially for carp fishing. So while most Minnesotans fish from the boat, in Bavaria it is rather the shore people prefer. "If boats are allowed, people do it. But in many regions you are not supposed to fish like that," Schuetz states. Two rods at a time are the restriction in Bavaria.
Another big difference is the fishing license. While in Minnesota, anglers can buy their licenses in any bait shop, most hardware and outdoor gear stores for a very reasonable price, Germans must complete a certain amount of theoretical hours before they can take the final test to get their license. All together it costs about $270 depending on the region.
"Once you have your license, it is valid for five years. If you want to prolong it for another five years, you have to pay a fee of $50 to $70. A lifelong license costs almost $600," Schuetz states.
With a license, Minnesotans may fish any waters they want to. In Germany, this is restricted as well.
"Most of the people belong to fishing clubs since not every lake or river is open to anyone. As a club member, you are granted access to all waters the club owns. If you are not a member, you need the club's permission and a day pass, which again costs a certain amount of money", explains Schuetz.
On the amount of fish caught per day, the limit for walleyes is six and for catfish five in U.S. waters. Germany allows only three per day.
"As long as the daily rate is not exceeded, you have no restrictions for the year. We do have size regulations and every angler needs to keep track of their catches throughout the year. According to those numbers, the clubs restore the fish population at the end of the year to keep the balance," says Schuetz.
According to the fish management plan, catch and release is allowed in the USA. In Germany in turn, it is forbidden.
"Threatened species must be thrown back again. Also for trophy fishery, there are restrictions as to the size," says Sparlin.
In Germany, the animal protection act implies that animals can only be harmed for rational reasons such as consumption. Fishing and putting the fish back just for fun can lead to a fine by authorities.
The same holds for fishing contests. PETA Germany says, fishing clubs are not supposed to carry out the concept of competitions to the detriment of the fish. So to keep alive the old tradition of the fisher king - the club member that catches the biggest fish in a certain time frame - the clubs now call it fellowship fishing, so the animals rights advocates have nothing to complain about. "I think catch and release does make sense if it is for the good of the population balance," Schuetz states.
The last question to be answered: Who catches the bigger fish?
"My personal record was a 38-pound flathead catfish and a 10-pound walleye," says Sparlin.
"For me, it was a 40-pound carp," Schuetz counters. His personal record catfish weighed 73 pounds.
Score for Germany.
Despite the many differences, there are things that correspond. Both Sparlin and Schuetz agree on this: Fishing is fun for anyone of any age and heritage. It is a fine art that requires a lot of knowledge if you want to be successful.