The Right Way to Catch and Release Fish

Knowing proper catch and release techniques are as important for any good fisherman as knowing how to cast your line or bait a hook. Practicing catch and release helps protect fish populations, which helps protect this activity that we all love. Here are a few tips on how to release your catch unharmed.

  • Use the right tackle. If your tackle is too light, it can take longer to reel in your catch. A long fight can exhaust a fish, and increase its chances of dying. Use tackle that is strong enough to quickly reel in the fish.
  • Use circle hooks. When using natural bait, a circle hook can help save the fish because it is designed to slide out of a fish’s mouth and lock around the jaw hinge, where as other hooks tend to lodge in the stomach or gills of fish.
  • Keep your hands wet. When handling a fish, it is important to keep your hands wet so that your dry skin doesn’t scratch away the fish’s scales or protective mucous coating. Fish need this slime coating to help them swim and protect them from infection.
  • Don’t use a fishing net. Just like dry skin, an abrasive net can scrape away a fish’s mucous coating and scales. It’s also likely a fish can get tangled and injured in a net.
  • Watch your fingers. Make sure to keep your fingers away from the fish’s gills and eyes so it doesn’t suffer what can be a life-threatening injury.
  • Keep your catch in the water. If you have to remove it from the water at all, get it back in as quickly as possible. Keeping your fish in the water allows its skin to stay moist and keeps oxygen flowing to its gills.
  • Release your fish head first. By releasing your fish head first, water is forced through its mouth and over its gills, helping to resuscitate it.