Guidelines for Catch & Release Fishing

  • Decide beforehand which fish are to be kept and immediately release all others.
  • Fish with barbless hooks or crimp and remove the barb. There’s no significant difference or mortality between catching fish with barbed/barbless hooks. The advantages of barbless hooks are: reduces time needed to dehook the fish, and less physical damage to the fish from hook removal.
  • Avoid the use of landing nets made of hard polypropylene or nylon- they tend to remove the protective slime from the scales.
  • Cut the leader close to the hook when releasing large fish ( jewfish, tarpon, sharks) or other fish that are gut hooked that you do not plan to keep. *Do not lift a gut-hooked fish out of the water by the leader; this can increase hook damage.
  • Wet your hands or gloves to handle the fish so that you remove as little slime as possible. To keep the fish calm, place it on its back or cover its eyes with a wet towel. Do not injure the eyes or gills. Control the fish at all times- the fish could fatally injure itself against the boat.
  • If the hook is difficult to remove by hand, use long-nosed pliers or a de-hooking tool. To avoid tearing additional tissue, back the hook through the original injury. If this fails, cut the leader and pull out the hook through the injury.
  • If your fish is in good shape, put it back into the water head first.
  • Revive the exhausted, but otherwise healthy fish by placing one hand under the tail and hold the bottom lip with the other. Move the fish into the shade, either alongside the boat, under the edge of a dock, or to the bottom- cooler water contains more oxygen and will help the fish will revive faster. If the fish is in fair to good shape, hold it headfirst into the current. If it is severely lethargic, depress the bottom lip to cause the jaw to gape and gently move the fish forward.  At the first sign of the fish attempting to swim away, let it go, but keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn’t tire and die.

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