Warmer weather will be here before we know it along with warmer water temps for fish, which causes oxygen levels to dip and actually puts more stress than usual on the fish we enjoy catching. Here are some tips and techniques for releasing your catch to fight again and ensure their survival:
- File or pinch down the barb of your hook. A barbless hook is much easier to remove. However, if your hook is set too deep in the throat, simply cut the fishing line as close as possible to the eye of the hook and release your catch. The hook will rust away or simply be absorbed by the fish’s tissue.
- Choose circle hooks when possible. Usually these hooks, with the point curving inward toward the shank of the hook, will catch the fish in the corner of its mouth instead of the stomach. In all cases, safe hook removal is made easy with a de-hooking tool, such as long-handled pliers.
- Net your fish. Slipping a wide hoop landing net under your tired gamefish and removing the hook while your catch is still in the water is simply the best tactic for a healthy catch and release. Landing nets with rubber, knotless webbing also protect the sensitive skin and fins of your game fish.
- Grippers: Gamefish can also be safely landed while using a wide variety of fish grippers. Grippers allow fisherman to grip their hooked fish with stainless steel claws and dislodge the hook, or hooks, while keeping the fish in the water. Many come with a built-in scale which weighs your catch so that a quick photo can be taken.
- Wet your hands, glove and towel, etc. Avoid handling your catch with dry surfaces. The reason is to avoid removing the protective slime from the game fish’s skin, which not only helps fish swim, but also wards off infections and parasites. Dry hands and towels will pull much of the slime off.
- Never jerk a fish straight up by its jaw; support it by the belly also – and don’t handle fish by the gills or eyes.
- Give fish a chance to recover. When releasing your catch never toss the fish back into the water. Instead, hold the fish in the water with grippers allowing water to flow through its gills until fully revived. Once the fish is able to swim on its own, grasp the fish just ahead of its tail and push the fish headfirst back into the water.