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TIPS ON RELEASING YOUR CATCH

Tips on helping you get the fish back in the water as soon as possible for the best chance of a successful release.
By Fred Golofaro
Tags: inshore, offshore, freshwater, surf
TIPS ON RELEASING YOUR CATCH
Get the fish back in the water as soon as possible for the best chance of a successful release.

While the concept of catch and release is a good one, it is critical that it be practiced properly. Mortality increases dramatically when fish are mishandled, and especially when they are kept out of water for too long. Time out of water should be limited to seconds, not minutes, whenever possible. The following guidelines should go a long way in helping you practice “safe catch and release.”

Get fish back in the water as quickly as possible. If a fish must be weighed, measured or photographed, have the camera, scale or tape at the ready and get it done as soon as the fish is under control. If you have to replace camera batteries or run back to the car to get a scale or tape, you are signing that fish’s death certificate.

Have the right tools. Pliers are an absolute must to help in removing hooks quickly and with minimum stress on the fish. A pair of long needlenose pliers can help where the hook is not easily accessible. Even better are some of the tools specifically designed for hook removal. ARC Dehookers, the ARC stands for Aquatic Release Conservation, are the best de-hookers I’ve come across and they come in different sizes to handle a variety of release scenarios. The ARC 24-inch Game Model Dehooker is ideal for big stripers. For more info on these valuable release tools, go to arcdehooker.com or call 877-411-4272.

Use single hooks where applicable and always crush the barbs of treble hooks. Hook removal is amazingly easy when barbs are removed. Always use circle hooks when fishing with bait. There is no question that the use of circle hooks results in a very high percentage of lip-hooked fish and reduces mortality associated with gut-hooked fish.

Handle fish carefully. There are many situations where fish can be released without removing them from the water. This is the ideal catch and release scenario.

If a fish must be weighed, measured or photographed, have the camera, scale or tape at the ready and get it done as quickly as possible.

Net fish only when absolutely necessary; removing a fish from the net tends to increase time out of water. The netting will also remove some of the fish’s protective slime, which it needs to fend off disease and fungus infections. Netting can also cause damage to gills and fins in some cases.

Avoid the gill area. Never insert your hand into a gill cover to hold a fish. Hands should be kept free of the gill area at all times. Instead, grip the fish’s lower jaw and use your other hand to help support the weight of the fish.

Return fish to the water gently. Resuscitate the fish by moving it back and forth so that water flows through its mouth and over its gills. Surf fishermen can “walk” a big fish in calm water. Do not release the fish until it is able to swim free of your grasp.

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