Sunday, September 23, 2007

Catch and Release - Fishing how to:

Catch and release fishing is gaining in popularity in the media and in the fishing community at large, which is good news for our fisheries. Releasing what you don't need or want is one of the most important tools that recreational anglers can use to preserve and manage our fisheries.

If you intend to release a fish that you catch, there are important steps you can take which improve the likelihood of the fish surviving.

Landing the Fish. Over-exertion/exhaustion will kill many fish so use common sense. Using extremely light tackle might be fun, but if it prolongs the fight for too long it can result in death to the fish. The first key to proper release is to play the fish as quickly as possible.

The landing of the fish can also cause physical stress to the fish. A big nylon net with large-string netting can become caught in the gills of a fish and can split fins and/or remove the protective slime coating that stops disease. To prevent this use a catch and release net made of a fine cotton mesh or an environet that is certainly all the rage at the moment (see below). Using these kinds of nets will not only vastly improve the chances of survival for the fish, but often keep the fish very calm.


Unhooking the fish while keeping the fish in the water is another viable option for catch and release. Many anglers lift the fish out of the water. This action deprives the fish of water and oxygen and increases stress. If you are going to lift the fish out of the water then the less time out of the water for the fish, the better. If you want to photograph your catch, have the camera ready and minimize the time that the fish is out of the water.

Releasing the Fish. There are some simple rules to follow in this area. The most important is to use care and be gentle when touching a fish. Don't squeeze the fish as you could crush its internal organs and/or remove its protective slime coating. The outer slime coating prevents disease and is essential for the fish's health. Remember if you really must touch the fish always wet your hands first.

As a general rule try to keep your fingers out of the fish's mouth and gills, and use pliers to remove embedded hooks. Try turning a fish upside down as this can calms it and will make for an easier release.

Fish with barbless hooks or with crushed barbs whenever possible. There are some great advantages to using barbless hooks:

1. If you hook yourself, the hook will come out without you having to visit the emergency room.

2. Barbless hooks penetrate a fish's mouth better than a barbed hook.

3. Barbless hooks are much easier to remove from a fish's mouth, making release easier.

If a fish swallows your hook, cut the line as close to the mouth as possible (without cutting the fish). If you are not using stainless steel hooks the hook will rust and dissolve quickly. If you are serious about catch and release, try to limit the use of stainless steel hooks unless they give a real advantage for your type of fishing.

Then you will need to actually release the fish. The best method involves gently holding the fish's tail and while supporting its underbelly, guide it through the water. This allow water to flow through its gills and the fish will begin to breathe. Face the fish into the current so that it can control it's breathing. The fish will usually swim away when it is ready.
Remember some fish, like tuna and other speedsters, often need to be speared back into the water so that the water can rush over their gills - refer to your local fish guides for this information.

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Eagle Eyes said...

Excellent information. Hope lot's of readers get this information and place it in their memory banks.

Kristine said...

This is a terrific post. I have to agree with eagle eyes, I hope a lot of people remember it.

Jon said...

Good post and very good, useful information. Turning the fish upside down does calm them!

Tom said...

Thanks for the positive comments everyone. I am a big believer in fishing for our future and making sure our kids and grandkids have fish to catch. In my opinion good catch and release practices are the only way this will happen!