The popularity of catch and release fishing with both conventional and fly fishing anglers is growing for good reason. While we don’t think there’s a problem with keeping a few fish for dinner. They ARE delicious after all, catching them is what it’s all about for most anglers. So it just makes sense to quickly admire them, snap a picture and let these fish swim to fight another day.
Minimizing the stress on the fish is critical for catch and release fishing.
To ensure that a fish will be able to survive, precautions need to be taken to reduce the stress on your fish. The fact of the matter is that catch and release fishing does not insure it’s survival if it isn’t done so properly.
1. Always Use Barbless Hooks
If you don’t intend on keeping your catch for the table, it’s always best to use barbless hooks. This is a simple and effective way to minimize damage to the fish.
You can purchase non barbed hooks or use a pair of pliers to crimp the hooks that you already have. This makes for ease of removing the hook a simple task, and tends not to harm the fish.
2. Fight Your Fish Like A Man
Land your fish as quickly as possible. A lengthy fight on light line can wear the fish down too much, and cause to much stress on the fish to recover properly.
Do you really need that 9x or that ultra light line for sensitivity? Odds are you really don’t. If you’re dead set on going the ultra light route, choose a fluorocarbon or other ultra small diameter line, so you can fight your fish like a man..
3. Get Your Hands Wet
When the fish has finally given up the fight and thrown the white flag, make sure you get your hands wet before you handle it. Dry hand or gloved hands can remove the protective layer of slime that a fish has on them. This can make them more susceptible to the elements in the water like that of bacteria and parasites.
If the weather is cold or touching fish isn’t your thing there are gloves designed for handling fish that can work great.
Also, if you intend to hold the fish up for a “Grip and Grin” shot, be quick about it.
4. Rocks, Sand, Gravel and Grass Should Be Avoided
I know you have seen the people that drag their catch across the rocks, dock or grass. Don’t be that guy. That fish has very little chance of making it. If you want to catch and release, then keep it in the water.
5. How to Properly Revive a Fish
Face your fish into the current, not down, and let it breathe naturally. Be patient and let the fish tell you when it is ready to swim away.
Take care not to revive your fish in sediment-filled water. Taking your fish that extra step to clean clear water that you haven’t stirred up to revive can be the difference.
If you’re one to drag your catch back and forth in the water in order to help it revive, stop! This back and forth action actually impedes the fish’s ability to move water through the mouth and across the gills to obtain oxygen.
These 5 tips were derived from years of on the water experience.We hope they help you return more fish safely to the water.