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Vol 5 No. 28- March 30, 2005

Catch and release made easy

By Rusty Chinnis

Catch and release isn’t a new concept. Over the last decade, it has become apparent that there isn’t an inexhaustible well of fish in our waters. We’ve fought battles to limit netting and made a commitment to be better stewards by agreeing to reasonable restrictions on size and bag limits. We’re better educated about limiting our catch rather than catching our limit. It’s important for all anglers to be educated on proper release methods. Even anglers who haven’t made the conservation leap need to be aware of proper catch and release techniques and tools so they can release out of season fish, undersized fish and unwanted species.

Effective tools and techniques exist to assure that the majority of fish we release will survive to reproduce and fight again. All too often even, well meaning anglers harm a fish’s chance at survival due to ignorance of basic catch and release methods.

First and foremost, the fish’s chances of survival will be greatest if they are played to the boat and released quickly. We must remember that while we are often fishing for fun, it’s a life and death struggle for the fish. One of the easiest ways to assure a fish’s survival after release is to remove the barb of the hook. This is best done with a pair of needle nosed pliers held in line with the hook. This prevents the hook barb from breaking, bending it smoothly against the shaft of the hook. If constant pressure is applied during a fight there is no need for a barb, as the hook will not back out.

If possible, avoid removing the fish from the water. The water supports its weight and keeps it from being harmed through handling and thrashing around a boat. By using one of a variety of tools, the fish could be released without contact. One of the most effective tools is made from heavy stainless wire, has a simple handle, a short shaft and a U shaped bend in the end. By holding the line near the fish, the angler has only to hook the wire over the bend in the hook, pulling down on the line and up with the tool.

Circle hooks help to avoid deep hooking any species of fish. Their design allows them to hook in the mouth of the fish a majority of the time. Circle hooks are now widely used for live bait fishing for fish as diverse a blue marlin and trout.

Fish that need to be revived should be held in the water and towed slowly through the water. They will swim away under their own power when oxygen in the water revives them.

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