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Catch and Release

Hints & Tips

Catch and release is all about the preservation of fishing, after capturing any fish they are then returned to the water before experiencing serious exhaustion or injury. Rivers, lakes and reservoirs are areas where catch and release is most important, the popularity of fishing has led to the problem of too many anglers and not enough fish.

There are many reasons why a hooked fish could die, however the two main reasons are either through stress or wounding. Fish get stressed from fighting after they have been hooked. A fish will be wounded by the hook when it is caught, this can range from a minor injury to a deadly one. The degree of injury will be dependent upon the location of the hook wound, a hook in the stomach or gill area of the fish is more likely to lead to mortality.

When returning your catch to the water it is important that you handle the fish carefully and release them unharmed, unhooking the fish is a very important skill for any fisherman and will ensure that others can enjoy the sport in the future.

Before even handling the fish it is important to wet your hands. Always push the hook in the opposite direction from which it entered the fish's lip; never try to pull the hook out. Deeply implanted hooks can be removed with a tool known as a 'disgorger'; this device is designed for removing hooks quickly and easily. If the fish has been hooked in the gut then the best thing to do is to cut the hook off as much as you can and then release the fish back into the water. Most of the time the hook will dissolve and fall out, however if this does not happen the fish can survive with the hook still embedded.

Barbless hooks are an important aspect of catch and release. These hooks can reduce injury and handling time therefore it can help to increase the fish's chance of survival. Barbless hooks can also be released from the fish without the fish having to be removed from the water.

Ensure that when you catch the fish that the struggle is kept to a minimum, when fish struggle they can build up lactic acid. The build up of lactic acid can be toxic to fish even days later.

There are a number of simple rules to ensure that the fish have the best chance of survival:

  • Use tackle that is strong enough to bring fish to hand quickly which will avoid overtiring them
  • Use knotless mesh landing nets to avoid damaging the fish
  • Keep fish in the water, allow them to breathe
  • When releasing the fish after capture, ensure that you are holding the fish facing the current, support the fish from underneath until it recovers sufficiently for a safe release

The most important thing when practicing catch and release is to be prepared! Have everything ready and within reaching distance, such as your camera, pliers and glove.