|Catch & Release
|How to Release Fish
|Every angler should expect and
be prepared to release some portion of his catch. Catch and release has become a popular and preferred
method of angling. The number of fish that survive depends on several factors, including the length
of the fight, where the fish is hooked, water temperature, and how the fish is handled and released.
To give fish released the best chance for survival, the following guidelines are recommended.
Barbless hooks can facilitate the quick removal of the hook from a fish and also reduce
the risk of hooking injuries to the angler. Pinching down the barb with needle-nose pliers works.
- Play fish quickly
Try to land your fish as quickly as possible and don’t
play the fish to exhaustion. This is particularly important when fishing for trout in periods of
warmer water temperatures (greater than 70 degrees F), but it is also true for coolwater and warmwater
species, when water temperatures are relatively high (greater than 80 degrees F). Keep in mind that
as water temperatures warm, dissolved oxygen levels in the water decline. Therefore, fish are subject
to stress and exhaustion in a much shorter period of time at 70 degrees compared to 55-degree water
temperatures. If it takes you a long time to land fish, your drag may be set too loosely or your
gear may be too light for the fish you are catching.
- Use a landing net
The use of a fine-mesh
landing net may aid in reducing the amount of time required to land a fish and keep it from thrashing
about in shallow water or on the shore.
- Keep the fish in the water
The chance of a fish being
injured increases the longer it is held out of water. It is preferable to remove the hook from a
fish you intend to release without taking it out of the water, or at least minimize the amount of
time a fish is held out of water.
- Wet your hands
Wet your hands, your net, and other materials
that may come in contact with the fish. This reduces the removal of the mucus on the fish and lessens
the possibility of bacterial infection.
- Hold the fish upside down while removing the hook
can often pacify the fish and reduce handling time.
- Remove hooks quickly
Hemostats or long-nose
pliers are essential tools for quickly removing hooks. Cutting hooks from a lure may facilitate
lure removal in some cases; therefore, wire cutters are a valuable addition to an angler’s
hook removal arsenal.
- Cut the line
When it is not possible to remove the hook without harming
the fish, cut the line. Only a small piece of line should be left on the hook to ease passage through
the digestive system. Research has documented that cutting the line can greatly increase the survival
of deeply hooked fish.
touch the gills
Do not handle fish by placing your fingers in the gill slits. Fish gill filaments
are very sensitive and can easily be injured. Fish should be handled by cradling the fish near the
head and tail if possible, or by gently holding the fish near the mid-section. Bass can be safely
handled by holding the lower jaw, thumb in the mouth and forefinger under the chin.
- Hold the
fish upright underwater after hook removal and allow it to swim away under its own power
hold the fish out of the current until it revives.
- Fish that are bleeding from the mouth or gills
due to hook removal and handling indicate your catch and release techniques need to improve
is reduced significantly when damage resulting in bleeding occurs; if regulations allow, fish that
are bleeding are the ones that you should consider keeping.
|SMART Angler's Notebook -- Put 'em Back Alive