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Catch-and-Release Fishing

Catch and release programs are used around the world and are one way to help with conservation and the sustainability of the world's fish populations. In the U.S. this type of program which started with trout in MI is now over 50 years old and is commonly used for salmon and many other fish species around the country. Catch and release programs can also be found in Australia, Ireland and the U.K. among others.

As long as there have been catch and release programs there have been discussions on the humanity of the process. Is catch and release beneficial or harmful to the fish? Researchers have found that catch and release programs of smaller varieties of fish have very high success rates. With deep sea fishing the results are mixed but the practice continues to grow in hopes that it will help sustain the fish population for future generations.

There are things that fisherman can do to help ensure the success of a catch and release program. Let's look at the techniques you can use to minimize the potential effects on the fish. First and foremost avoid stainless steel hooks. Whenever possible use a barbless hook which will reduce both potential injuries to the fish and out of the water handling time - both of which will help ensure the survival of your catch. If you use artificial lures, opt for a single hook rather than a triple hook.

Extra caution is needed when using a catch and release style with deep sea fishing where the fish typically live at depths of 30 feet or more. This is due to the pressure changes the fish experiences during the capture. Similar to humans who get the "benz" fish faced with rapid pressure changes can have their swim-bladder swell. So it is important to understand the process and minimize the impact on the fish's health. In addition to using the proper hook or lure make sure you use the heaviest line possible for your targeted species and reel it in slowly and steadily. This will help minimize the pressurization change on the fish.

Landing the Fish

Once you land the fish make sure to minimize its contact with foreign objects and keep hands moist to minimize any potential damage to the mucous layer of the fish skin That layer is very important to the fish's health as it protects the fish from disease and infection. Also keep your fingers away from the fish's eyes and gills.

If you use a landing net - use a knotless net which will minimize any potential damage to the eyes, gills, fins and body. Quickly and efficiently remove or have a more experienced angler remove the hook from the fish. Depending upon where the fish is hooked you may need to simply cut the line and close the mouth of the fish.

Releasing the Fish

Once you remove the tackle and taken any measurements and photos, point the fish into the current or hold it upright on the surface of the water. The gills should begin working and the fish's buoyancy will return. Release the fish and watch it swim away.

Quick Tips for Catch-and-Release Fishing

Many anglers choose to release the fish they catch. However, sometimes fish are so injured by the catch that their odds of surviving back in the water are poor. Here are some tips to improve a fish's chances of living to fight another day:

  • Keep the fight short by using heavier tackle.
  • Use a circle hook or crush the barb on a J-hook to avoid injuring the fish.
  • Never keep a fish out of the water longer than you can hold your breath.
  • The slime that covers a fish protects it from infection, so use wet hands or gloves when you handle the fish. A dehooker lets you remove the hook without touching the fish.
  • Never dangle a fish by its jaw, and always support its body with your hands.
  • When releasing a deep-sea bottomfish, use a venting tool to relieve the air from the fish's air bladder.

 

Using good catch-and-release practices will help ensure the fish survives after being released.

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