Proper catch and release techniques save a fish’s life. Using a bad habit or unknowing using a bad method causes death. Learning proper release is one of the first skills anglers need. New anglers watch a video or look at pictures online. The picture does not tell the whole practice. Also, A few experienced anglers have bad habits and do not realize them.
Releasing a fish properly needs the right tools. A fish hooked in the lip is easy to unhook most of the time. Sometimes the hook is in a tough to grab place. This when the tools are helpful. Think of it this way. Do you go to a dentist that does not have the right equipment? Anglers must have the right tools also.
Proper Catch and Release Tools
The right tools are not only for the fish’s benefit. Using tools helps keep hooks away from your fingers and hands. A thrashing fish is dangerous and will stick an angler with the hooks. The tools hold the fish and keep hands away from hooks keeping the process safe.
- Landing Net
- Long Needle Nose Pliers
- Cutting Tools
- Handling Mat for Shore Fishing
Using the Tools
A net safely holds a fish to remove hooks. It limits the fish’s movement and allows it to stay in the water. Keep the fish in the net submerged until you have all the tools ready. A fish in the water is able to breathe, out of the water it suffocates. Limit the time out of the water to 2-3 minutes. How long can you hold your breath?
A set of long needle nose pliers grab hooks making removal easy. The long ones can get down a fish’s mouth and get to deep hooks. A firm grip on a hook with a little twist and hooks usually pops out. This may take 2-3 tries sometimes. After using the proper technique a few times, you will unhook fish fast.
A hook that does not come out easily needs to be cut. A set of wire cutters for small hooks or small bolt cutters for heavy hooks are needed. Cut the hook and the lure will be out of the way. Then try to remove the pieces left in the fish. If they come out quickly, great. If you cannot get them out, release the fish if it is not bleeding a lot. Fish will survive with a few hook pieces in them. The pieces come out or dissolve.
Placing a fish on the ground or deck of the boat is harmful. The slime coating gets damaged. The slime coating is a protective layer fish have to prevent diseases. A soft mat is all that is needed. Wet the mat and your hands before handling the fish. The wet mat and hands reduce damaging the slime layer. Dry hands and mats will remove the slime layer leading to disease and death in many instances.
Taking Pictures and Handling Fish
Holding a fish the wrong way hurts them also. Grabbing the lip of a bass for a photo is cruel. Lipping the bass breaks or dislocates the jaw if done incorrectly. All the fish’s weight is on their jaw. Place a hand under the belly on smaller fish. Bigger fish one hand near the head and the other near the anal fins. This supports the fish without harm.
A fish uses a swim bladder for stability. A vertical hold causes an imbalance in the bladder. The fish ends up unable to swim upright upon release. This often results in delayed mortality. A fish can swim away looking okay but it is in shock. Once away they turn over or sideways. Granted some fish are able to handle stress but many game-fish are fragile. A catfish is able to take a lot of abuse but pike and bass will die with little poor handling.
Hold the fish the right way and have someone take a picture. The removal of the hooks, weighing and picture needs to be done 2-3 minutes. Keep the fish in a net underwater until ready. If hook removal takes that long release the fish without a picture so it can live. The future of fishing needs fish to reproduce. Proper handling ensures a fish has the chance to breed. Mishandling of fish is a waste of our natural resources.
Summary of Proper Catch and Release
This article explains the basics of releasing fish and tools. The best way to learn is by having an experienced angler help. Do not be afraid to ask for help with learning about fishing. Everyone is a beginner at one time and learned from others. It will speed up the learning leading to better fishing and habits for fishing.