Catch-and-release

Improved fishing technology and increasing fishing pressure have caused fishing quality to decline in many waters. Catch-and-release fishing offers anglers a way to enjoy their sport with less harm to the resource. Each year, more anglers discover the satisfaction of watching a fish they’ve caught swim away. However, catch-and-release fishing can result in some delayed mortality depending on environmental conditions, location of puncture, and handling. So, when the fish are really biting, it is a good idea to practice some restraint in how many fish you catch-and-release. Here are some tips for proper catch-and-release:

• Don’t place fish you plan to release on a stringer or in a livewell, because they have less chance of surviving. Make the decision to release a fish when you catch it.

• Play and land the fish quickly. A prolonged struggle places too much stress on a fish.

• Don’t angle for fish in very deep water, unless you plan to keep what you catch. Fish pulled from cool deep water through warmer surface water can be too stressed for survival.

Handle the fish gently and keep it in the water as much as possible.

If possible, unhook the fish without placing it in a net or lifting it from the water. Fish placed in nets or on a boat floor can suffer damage to scales and eyes.

• When lifting fish for a photograph or just to admire it, hold it horizontal, supporting the weight with both hands. Do not hold the fish by the eye sockets or gills, but rather by the lower lip or under the gill plate and also support the belly of the fish. You can damage the internal organs of fish, especially larger ones, by lifting them from the water.

• Wet your hands before touching a fish to help prevent removal of their protective slime coating.

• If a hook is deeply imbedded, do not tear the hook out, but try to remove it carefully with a pointed pliers or hook/barb cutting tool. If the hook is too deep, cut the line so that at least an inch hangs out of the mouth. This helps the hook to lay flush when the fish takes in food.

• Circle hooks may help in eliminating deeply hooked fish. They are made to hook fish in the mouth.

• A fish that can be legally kept should not be released if it is bleeding heavily, which indicates its chance of survival is poor.

• You cannot practice catch-and-release for a species during its closed season.

• In streams, release fish into calm water. Hold the fish until it swims free from your hand. A tired fish placed in fast water can die by tumbling downstream into rocks.

• Gently slide the fish, never toss it, back into the water.

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