I’m a pretty laid back guy, I don’t find many reasons to get angry and, for the most part, I try to come up with ways to find fun in everything I do. I usually take a ‘live and let live’ approach to social media too and I stay way far away from the comments sections on any political article I read online – that is the toxic underbelly of America if you weren’t aware.
But the other day I saw a post online that really hit me in a bad spot. I need to preface this by saying, this person was not doing anything malicious, they were merely recording their attempt to release a striped bass, but I take exception to people displaying release techniques that pretty much guarantee that the fish will not live And this is not the only time I’ve seen a person use this technique and it needs to stop now.
The video in question was a quality striper taken during the day somewhere in New England. The person was hanging over the side of their boat with a phone in one hand and the jaw of the bass in the other. The boat was in gear and the fish was being dragged through the water a pretty good clip. I think I understand the thinking behind the method; you want water to be ‘moving over the gills’ during release, but not so fast that the fish is being swamped. I would compare this technique to skydiving with a clothespin on your nose, it’s probably going to be pretty hard to draw an effective, open-mouth breath, at terminal velocity.
But this alone is not the reason why I felt like I needed to write this, if this technique were used, with all other aspects done correctly, I think the fish would have a good shot at survival. But this person was basically having trouble patting his head and rubbing his belly, because in his attention to keeping the fish in the frame, he was bending the fish so that the mouth was not in the water at all, this also ensured that only one set of gills was actually submerged. So now we have a large striper that has fought a long battle, probably been pulled out of the water for a photo and now is being dragged through the water with her mouth high and dry and only half of her gills able to draw any oxygen from the water at all. My only hope is that the angler put more time and care into the parts of the release that were not captured on film – or else, I fear, that fish is now covered with crabs on the bottom.
This is not an attempt to ‘out’ the angler in question, only I definitely know who it was. The whole point of this rant is to make you understand that the release is the MOST IMPORTANT PART of catching a fish that you don’t intend to keep. It’s not getting a photo or video for your Instagram, it’s not making sure the other boat nearby notices that you hooked up, it’s not getting 98 different poses so you can choose the most hilarious ones for your TikTok…it’s making sure the fish has the best chance for survival.
Use common sense: make sure you can pay full attention to release process – the mouth and both gills are underwater. Don’t violently move the fish back and forth to force water over the gills. Keep the fish upright and submerged, move the fish gently and look for cues that the fish is regaining its strength—the gills pumping, the dorsal standing up, the clampdown on your thumb. When you see those things, grab the fish by the tail and let her pull free from your grasp. If we all pay closer attention to our release practices, we’re going enjoy many, many more safe releases and have more fish out there for the future. End rant.