Every angler should be prepared to release some of their catch. Whether you are practicing catch and release by choice or to comply with regulations, it is necessary to release the fish quickly. Follow these simple tips to give the fish you release the best chance for survival.
Play the fish quickly
Hook and land the fish quickly and handle it as little as possible. The less you handle, touch or hold the fish the better.
Wet your hands
The slime on the fish protects it from disease, so be careful not to wipe it off. Wet your hands before handling the fish – this reduces the chances you will remove the slime coating.
Keep the fish in the water
It’s best to leave the fish in the water while you unhook it.
Barbless hooks are easier to remove and reduce the time the fish is out of water. Consider pinching down the barb with needle nose pliers, especially those lures with multiple hooks.
Remove hooks quickly
Fish hooked in the mouth almost always survive. Use needle-nose pliers to gently remove the hook from the fish’s mouth. Back the hook out the opposite way it went in.
Cut the line
If the fish is hooked deeply, cut the line as close to the fish’s mouth as possible and leave the hook. Research has documented that cutting the line can greatly increase the survival of deeply hooked fish. Most hooks will dissolve or dislodge.
Preserve the memory
Have your camera ready to minimize the time the fish is out of the water (no longer than you can hold your breath). Whenever possible, take pictures of the fish while it’s still in the water. Hold the fish horizontally and support large fish with a hand under the belly.