To catch a fish, whatever species, is a special moment and something to be treasured. Sometimes the fish are testing to hook, or fight with great strength and agility but one thing is true of them all, they should be handled correctly.
It is common for many anglers these days to practice catch and release methods and whilst many of us treat fish to the best of our abilities here are just seven ways to treat your fish better.
Use barbless hooks. Yes, barbless hooks do less damage upon removal – but more importantly, barbless hooks make it much easier to release your fish quickly and with minimal handling.
Minimise ‘air time’. We all want a picture with our prized catch. You are not taking the fish home and you want a way to preserve the memory. Keep it in the water until your photographer is ready. Once they have the camera ready and taken the practice shot, lift from the water, get the photo, and get it back in the water. If you must do it again, do it again – but minimise the time that the fish is out of the water.
Fight them hard. Apply as much pressure as you can. Get it to hand as quickly as possible. Long battles mean exhausted fish, and when exhausted they have a higher mortality rate. Fight hard and fast and get it back on its way.
Stay away from the rocks. Fish flopping around in the rocks can do serious damage, they are just not built for that. Find a spot to land your catch with as few sharp, hard objects as possible. Sandy beaches are perfect! If you are in a run that is lined with rocky shorelines, keep it in deeper water and do not beach it onto the rocky bank. You can land any fish that you need to land in a foot of water.
Keep your fingers out of the gills. A fish’s gill plates protect its very delicate and essential gills. Once they have been tired out to the point that you can land them, they are very vulnerable. Please, please do not reach up under the gill plates for the grip and grin – that’s a really nice handle but it’s also often a death sentence.
Use appropriate gear. In order to fight fish hard you should make sure you are tackled up suitably for your target species. The appropriate tackle will make fishing and fighting these species easier and will greatly improve the chances of its survival.
Watch for predators. This one is particularly relevant in saltwater. Any fish that has been landed is tired and vulnerable. Make sure that you do not release your catch right into the wheelhouse of a hungry barracuda or pike.
We hope you find these points useful next time you are on the water.