Sometimes you go fishing knowing you’ll bring back some food for the family to enjoy. Other times, you just head out on the water for a good time! If you’re not planning on taking fish home with you, it’s essential to know the best practices for how to release fish you catch. This will help maintain good fishing opportunities for years in the future.
While catch and release is a great combination of fun and conservation, dropping a fish back in the water without proper knowledge may not result in that fish’s survival. Knowing what to do after you catch a fish can make the difference between that fish surviving or dying.
Handle Fish Correctly
Proper handling is essential if a fish is going to live its normal life after being caught. When possible, try to dehook the fish in the water, and cut your line as close to the hook as you can if you’re unable to remove a swallowed hook.
If you must remove a fish from the water, don’t keep it out of water for more than 60 seconds. Finally, only handle fish with wet hands and never touch the eyes or gills.
Release at Depth When Applicable
When you catch a fish deeper than 30 feet, they may suffer from barotrauma if brought to the surface. In that case, make sure to release it quickly, and at the proper depth. You’ll need recompression tools like release weights or descender devices.
Use Proper Gear
Just as some lures are better for offshore fishing, there are hooks that are better for catch-and-release days. You should try to employ circle hooks, hooks with crimped barbs, and barbless hooks. These options make it easier to remove hooks, and they’re less damaging to the fish.
Additionally, make sure to use non-stainless-steel fishhooks. Other materials will fall out over time if the fish escapes before you can set it loose.
On that note, always use tackle that won’t break against the fish you’re targeting. Tackle that can quickly land a fish reduces the struggle time and gives them the best chance of survival.
Now that you know the best practices for how to release the fish you catch, take this knowledge with you to keep fish alive longer!