Catch & Release Tips

February 4, 2009 by  

By Doug Leier

Proper catch and release tips will ensure a better survival rate

Proper catch and release tips will ensure a better survival rate

I’ve always preferred simple tackle for fishing – bobbers, jigs, spoons and hooks – though I’m not categorically against using the latest tools and technology. Provided, of course, their use is within the constraints of the law.

I call it low impact angling. Some call it bobbers and worms. Whatever you declare, it’s more about enjoying fish and less about trophy angling, no matter the cost.

There are debates over whether GPS marking units and the latest sonar gill-seeking, laser-guided fish finders have crossed the line, but I try not to get into that. Those who think that modern-day angling is akin to … catching fish in a barrel, probably haven’t fished lately?

You can find fish – I bet we’ve all seen bluegills shading themselves under a dock – and still not catch them.

For the most part, contemporary anglers using the latest inventions have not necessarily accelerated the demise of fishing. In fact, I remember a few years ago an older angler relating to me that when monofilament line hit the market, it was thought to be the demise of fish, as they couldn’t see the line and didn’t stand a chance. I’m living proof that didn’t happen.

Its important to be quick but gentle when releasing fish

It's important to be quick but gentle when releasing fish

Many modern-day anglers, save for a few fish hogs, enjoy a fillet or two, but are more in tune with catching than cleaning. Having grown up in North Dakota, this transition has surprised me. Most anglers will keep a few fish for eating, and maybe save a fish-of-a-lifetime to send to the taxidermist. However, it seems catch-and-release has become more of a standard than an anomaly.

And often, those anglers who buy those GPS mapping units to pinpoint exact coordinates of hot spots, are the same folks who are the greatest practitioners of catch-and-release fishing day after day.
Conventional wisdom says that some released fish will die. That’s a fact. But when done properly, catch-and-release can enhance angling in the long term.

Think of larger, productive breeding female fish caught and released a few times over the course of their life, rather than just being caught once and fried up. Their cumulative contribution to a lake’s fish population over several spawning seasons could be significant.

While anglers are doing a good job of practicing catch-and-release on their own,

fisheries managers are also at work investigating ways that regulations involving catch-and-release can help maintain or improve fish populations.

Here’s a few tips for catch and release angling:

  • Decide to release the fish as soon as you hook it.
  • Generally, land the fish quickly and don’t play it to exhaustion.
  • Set the hook quickly to reduce the likelihood the fish will swallow the bait.
  • Bring a fish in slowly from deep water to help it adjust to changing pressure.
  • Don’t put your fingers in the eyes or gills of the fish.
  • Avoid removing mucous or scales.
  • Get the fish back in the water as quickly as possible.
  • If the hook is very deep within the fish, or it can’t be removed quickly, cut the leader close to the fish’s mouth.
  • Back the hook out the opposite way it went in.
  • Use needle-nose pliers, hemostats, or a hook-out to remove the hook and protect your hands.
  • Place the fish in the water, gently supporting the mid-section and tail until it swims away.
  • Resuscitate an exhausted fish by moving it back and forth to force water through its gills.


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