|Some waters are managed strictly as “Catch and Release” waters. Every angler should expect and be prepared to release some portion of his catch. Minimum size limits require that fish less than the minimum must be released. Creel limits require that fish caught in excess of the limit must be released. Closed seasons require the release of fish species caught during a season when keeping them is not permitted. Just as important, catch and release has become a popular and preferred method of angling. The idea for both voluntary catch and release and catch and release required by regulations is that the fish survive to grow larger, and perhaps reproduce, and perhaps then can be caught again. 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, follow these recommended guidelines:
- Use barbless hooks.
- Play fish quickly.
Try to land your fish as quickly as possible and don’t play the fish to exhaustion.
- Use a landing net.
- Keep the fish in the water.
The chance of a fish being injured increases the longer it is held out of water.
- Wet your hands.
Wet your hands, your net, and other materials that may come in contact with the fish.
- Hold the fish upside down while removing the hook.
This can often pacify the fish and reduce handling time.
- Remove hooks quickly.
Hemostats or long-nose pliers are essential tools for quickly removing hooks.
- Cut the line.
When it is not possible to remove the hook without harming the fish, cut the line.
- Don’t touch the gills.
Do not handle fish by placing your fingers in the gill slits.
- Hold the fish upright underwater after hook removal and allow it to swim away under its own power.
If necessary, hold the fish out of the current until it revives.
- Fish that are bleeding from the mouth or gills due to hook removal do not survive after being released back into the water. Anglers may be charged with violating the Fish and Boat Code by failing to immediately release the fish unharmed. If regulations permit, the angler should keep the fish and have it count towards his or her daily limit..