For any fisherman, knowing good catch and release practices is as important as knowing how to find hungry fish and what bait to use. In New England, almost every fish species has rules and regulations regarding the size and number of fish you can catch. But catching and releasing fish is also important for conservation and helps preserve and improve fisheries populations. After catching a fish, you always want to release it quickly and unharmed. Here are five tips on how to do that.
1. Use Appropriate Tackle – You want to land your catch fast, as the longer a fish fights the more exhausted it gets, dramatically decreasing its chance of survival. If your tackle is too light, it will prolong the battle. Make sure it’s strong enough to bring in your fish fast.
2. Use Circle Hooks with Bait – Circle hooks, when used with natural bait, help reduce fish deaths because the design allows the hook to slide out of the fish’s throat and lock around the jaw hinge as the line tightens. Other styles of hooks often lodge in a fish’s stomach or gills.
3. Use Single Hooks with Lures – Using a single hook on an artificial lure generally does much less damage to a fish than a plug with two or three treble hooks. A single hook also makes it easier to release your catch.
4. Keep Them in the Water – Keeping your fish in the water allows its skin to stay moist and provides oxygen to its gills. It also prevents injuries it might sustain from being hoisted aboard or dropped on deck. If you must remove it from the water, do it as quickly as possible. Also, make sure your hands are wet, as dry hands can remove a fish’s protective mucous coating.
5. Don’t Use a Net – Just like dry hands, a stiff, scratchy fishing net can remove the fish’s protective mucous coating, as well as scales. A net also increases the chances your fish will get tangled, which could injure your catch or lengthen the time it is out of the water. If you must use one, stay away from nylon nets. Use a shallow net specifically designed for catch and release. Also, rubber mesh nets are increasingly popular.