Tools and techniques for releasing your catch to fight again.

Jean McElroy with a big mama trout, subdued with lip-gripper and a hand under the belly. Photo credit: Rob Devore

Late summer brings some of the warmest water of the year, with attendant dips in oxygen levels. That puts more stress than usual on the fish we enjoy catching. Here are some tips for improving their survival rates.

1) File or pinch down the barb of your hook. A barbless hook is much easier to remove. However, if your hook is set too deep in the throat, simply cut the fishing line as close as possible to the eye of the hook and release your catch. The hook will rust away or simply be absorbed by the fish’s tissues.

2) Choose circle hooks when possible. Usually these hooks, with the point curving inward toward the shank of the hook, will catch the fish in the corner of its mouth instead of the stomach. In all cases, safe hook removal is made easy with a de-hooking tool, such as a long-handled pliers; an ARC dehooker (a long handled metal rod with a curl at the business end); or a Baker Hook-Out.

Soft rubber landing net is another option.

3) Net your fish. Slipping a wide hoop landing net under your tired gamefish and removing the hook while your catch is still in the water is simply the best tactic for a healthy catch and release. Landing nets with rubber, knotless webbing also protect the sensitive skin and fins of your game fish. Frabill takes safe fish handling one step further with their specially designed landing net which employs a round, flat bottom which allows gamefish to revive in a natural position, verses a bent unhealthy position. Frabill also offers a large cradle style net where your hooked fish is led right into a webbed cradle, unhooked, revived and safely released. A measuring tape is also conveniently located inside of the net allowing fishermen to measure their catch as well.

4) Grippers: Gamefish can also be safely landed while using a wide variety of fish grippers. Boga Grips allow fishermen to grip their hooked fish with stainless steel claws and dislodge the hook, or hooks while keeping the fish in the water. A built in scale also weighs your catch so that a quick photo can be taken of your catch without laying a hand on your fish.

5) Wet your hands, glove, towel, etc. Avoid handling your catch with dry surfaces. The reason is to avoid removing the protective slime from the game fish’s skin, which not only helps fish swim, but also wards off infections and parasites. Dry hands and towels will pull much of the slime off.

6) Never jerk a fish straight up by its jaw; support it by the belly also. And don’t handle a fish by the gills or eyes.

7) Give fish a chance to recover. When releasing your catch never toss the fish back into the water. Instead, hold the fish in the water with grippers allowing water to flow through its gills until fully revived. Once the fish is able to swim on its own, grasp the fish just ahead of its tail and push the fish headfirst back into its watery home.

Tarpon is detained briefly with a gloved hand on the lower jaw for dehooking and a photo release.

8) Certain species may not be brought into the boat or onto a pier or land. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission does not allow fishermen to land goliath grouper (also referred to as jewfish). Tarpon larger than 40 inches must be kept in the water as well and released immediately. Tarpon fishermen may, however, purchase an annual tarpon tag that allows the retention of one tarpon per year when pursuing an International Game Fish Association record. For more information on Florida fishing regulations visit www.myfwc.com. FS

Florida Sportsman Magazine September 2016

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