Johnny "Bucktails" Contello has drawn quite a lot of fire from thousands of viewers on my site and others after posting a video of himself doing it "Johnny Bucktail Style" in which to a vast majority of viewers he appears to be culling fish.
Contello has gone pretty quiet since yesterday evening, as I don't think his video has brought him the type of response he was hoping for. While a handful of folks have come to his defense, stating that the gills were still moving and the fish were alive, that he had done nothing illegal (questionable), and that you can't prove those fish didn't survive (true), I find it pretty damned hard to argue that his actions are remotely ethical. When I asked 2-3 charter captains that quickly jumped to his defense if this was the way they handled fish on their boats, their silence spoke volumes. This is not a debate about keeping fish or CPR, it's about the ethical handling of fish you will release and intent of regulations prohibiting culling.
When that fish comes over the rail, a brief period of unhooking and quick picks are OK, but it should be released as soon as practically possible. If you've got 4,5, 6 or more fish in a short time span, if you've reached your limit, it should be a matter of unhooking them and sending them right back where they came from. Once you toss them on the deck in a pile, to go back and discard smaller fish is definitely culling. While I'm mostly C&R, I have nothing against the guys in the video keeping fish, and if I've got folks on my boat who want to keep them, I'll encourage keeping smaller fish like those he's discarding. Better eating anyway. If you catch larger fish later on, too bad. Take a nice picture with your arms way extended, the camera right in front of the fish, post it to Facebook and be happy. Those fish may be "alive," but their survival chances are pretty much zilch. They'll be belly up.
For those calling for the full weight of the American justice system to be levied upon Johnny Bucktails, I doubt he'll face any consequences beyond the damage to his reputation. He wanted to be an internet sensation, and now everyone is talking about him. In the end, perhaps the best thing the guy can do is just issue an apology and consider being more of an ethical angler in the future.