As anglers, one of the biggest mistakes we can make while on the water is mishandling a fish we intend to release. Let’s be honest, a blackened redfish sandwich is hard to beat, but what about those fish not destine for the skillet? Here are a few tips to ensure the fish lives to grow and be caught another day.
When removing fish from the water, always use a net to cradle the fish from the water. Snatching the fish in the boat using the line, not only increases the chances of your line breaking and losing your catch, you also run the risk of injuring the fish. I recommend a good folding net that can be stored out of the way when not in use such as Bass Pro’s Gold Series Folding Net.
With all fish, especially trout, wet your hands before holding the catch. Fish have a protective film on them to help ward off disease and parasites. By holding them with dry hands, you remove this protection and even if they swim away when released, their survival rate is diminished greatly. When holding the fish (with wet hands) avoid putting your fingers in gills or “lipping” the fish. Both not only greatly increase the harm you do to the fish, but increase odds of injuring yourself. Grip the fish around the skinny section in front of tail and allow the body of the fish to rest in your other hand. This in better for the fish and makes for a better photo to remember your catch!
After a quick picture with your trophy, it’s time to send them back. Instead of throwing a fish overboard and hoping it swims away, place the fish in the water and letting them catch their breath and swim away under own power. If holding by tail, like with bigger red fish, avoid a back and forth motion and instead wiggle hand side to side. The fish will let you know when it’s ready, usually with a big splash in the face thanking you for the release.
To enjoy our fisheries for generations to come we need to make efforts to preserve our waters and the game fish that inhabit them. If everyone does their small part, it will add up to something big and we’ll be able to maintain a healthy stock of our favorite fish.
As always, if you have any questions or need a day on the water reach out to me! Thank you!
Captain John Swanson