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Catch and Release Fishing Best Practices

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This topic was recently brought up in the "Fishing Reports" forum and I thought it might be good to address it here.

Basically, if you want to practice catch and release fishing there are many things you can do to try and insure that the fish you release live to fight another day.

Here are some general tips to start out with.. (I'm sure we can come up with some more).

-use artifical lures instead of bait (fish are less likely to swallow the lure)
-don't play the fish to death (use tackle strong enough to accomplish this)
-land the fish quickly
-keep the fish in the water as long as possible
-if you use a net, a small knotless mesh is best
-if you touch the fish, use wet hands, a wet rag, or wet cotton gloves
-don't toss/drop you fish on the deck/ground
-hold the fish horizontally with good support rather than vertically


When lipping bass like fish there is a good and bad way to do it.  Basically you want to use minimal torque pressure on the fishes jaw.

Here are two examples:

The Bad:

The good:

The better (If I had wet hands and hadn't already killed the fish:


And if you like to use bait and plan on releasing, use circle hooks, preferably non-offset circle hooks.


So, am I totally naive to think that the 23# lingzilla that I held by the gill plate in my "patented death grip" for 5+ minutes while photographing and weighing it would not have been OK had I released it?  My opinion is that it would've been just fine.  It was alive in my hull all the way until I landed and even up to fillet time about 15 mnutes after landing, so we know they can go without water on their gills for quite some time.  I think lingcod and other fish with imposing chompers have an advantage because they don't get lip-gripped by hand.  I admit that I've not done much considering of how holding black snapper and other 'bass-like' fish affects their jaw, but I think I would've noticed if it ever dislocated the jaw or ripped muscles...  I'll be watching more closely from now on.  Good discussion. 

There are lots of research papers out there comparing mortality rates of C&R fishes.  Most of these papers are species specific due to the fact that each species reacts differently to handling.  For example, look at an anchovy wrong and it will be dead in seconds... stick a mudsucker in your pocket, have a long lunch, take it out and that fish is still good to go.   Lingcod are actually fairly resilient to rough captures and here is the research that came to those conclusions..



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