BY FRANK WOOTEN

Fish feel fear.

So writes Paula Moore of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

So what?

So do humans. And most of us feel fear of fish when we swim in the murky waters of these parts. Some folks even fear sea serpents.

Moore’s new op-ed pitch that fishing is a “cruel blood sport” aims at people who are unaware that fish are frequently aware — and scared — of mortal dangers. Her goal is to shame soft-hearted (and -headed) fishermen and fisherwomen into sparing their prey not just their lives but their angst.

But when are fish, while swimming with other fish that eat fish (in other words, most fish), not at deadly risk?

Moore cites assorted experts on the pain-and-fright suffering fishing inflicts upon its targets. For instance, Professor Culum Brown of Australia’s Macquarie University warns that the physical ordeal fish endure when pulled out of the water is “exactly the same as a person drowning.”

Moore also quotes this stating-the-obvious conclusion from Ian Duncan, who led a study on fish anxiety (seriously) at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada: “Fish are frightened and they prefer not being frightened.”

Maybe that’s why fish don’t watch “Jaws,” even though it stars a fake fish wreaking “nature strikes back” havoc on mankind.

And maybe a fish flopping around on the dock isn’t “exactly the same as a person drowning” because a fish isn’t a person, despite our species’ evolutionary connection way back in the primordial ooze.

OK, so the old saying “like a fish out of water” recognizes that a fish out of water is having a tough time.

Yet consider the consequences if a misguided guilt trip over fish’s fearsome plight casts all of our own kind away from a relaxing, wholesome, nutritious and even enlightening activity:

■ You couldn’t savor the self-sufficiency rush of catching, cleaning, cooking and dining on a delicious flounder (this seafood lover’s fish-dish favorite).

■ You couldn’t learn fishing’s valuable life lessons, including patience, how to bait a hook, acceptance of failure, appreciation of nature, and the application of poetic license to enhance a good fish story.

■ You couldn’t delight at the sight of newcomers to our coast reacting in horror when they see anglers landing small sharks from the surf at local beaches. That’s when former inland dwellers catch on that much larger sharks lurk beneath the waves where they’ve been swimming.

Sure, fishing means tricking denizens of the deep into biting sharp hooks and jerking the creatures out of their watery comfort zones into an environment that will kill them if they aren’t soon returned to their native habitats. And yes, we often devour them after killing them.

Hey, fish are already eating — and being eaten — by other fish. Anyway, if we don’t mind killing and consuming fish (and delectable shrimp, crabs, oysters, etc.), why should we mind subjecting them to pain and fright?

Plus, while fish have more to fear than fear itself, we have more to fear than fish do. Fish are too ignorant to fret over these rising perils of our times:

North Korea’s nuclear arsenal; Iran’s advance toward a nuclear arsenal; radical Islam’s war on Western civilization; our nation’s accelerating race into Nanny State-driven debt disaster.

That fiscal menace was freshly confirmed by Wednesday’s news that 72 million Americans were on Medicaid in 2012 — a 23 percent rise over the last five years. Add the nearly 50 million Americans on Medicare and you get more than 120 million, nearly 40 percent of our population.

In other words, though some conservative optimists imagine that our nation can still avoid being reeled in by socialized medicine, we’re already severely hooked on its risky prescription of good intentions and bad results.

As for PETA’s appeal to our good intentions on what fish feel, remember, in 2007 that organization bullied the sweet monks at Mepkin Abbey in Berkeley County into giving up their egg business.

Chicken eggs, not fish eggs.

Those adaptable holy men switched to mushroom farming.

But holy men can also be fishermen, as in Jesus’ disciple Simon, aka Saint Peter.

So don’t let PETA, or anybody else, lure you into the silly notion that fishing is unethical.

Meanwhile, check out a tasty recipe from those monks at http://mepkinabbey.org/wordpress/2009/06/chicken-or-fish-with-oyster-mushrooms.

Try it with flounder.

And pass the tartar sauce.

Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is wooten@postandcourier.com.