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Catch & Release Fishing Best Practices Manual Available Now

Improve release survival odds with a downloadable portable reference manual

Catch & Release Fishing Best Practices Manual Available Now

The Return ‘Em Right Best Release Practices Manual, developed in collaboration with private anglers, captains, scientists and fisheries managers, will help anglers improve the survival of reef fish that are caught and released.

Each year, millions of reef fish are caught and released, and many die from the impacts of barotrauma. Barotrauma is a pressure-related injury fish experience when reeled up from depth. These dead discards negatively impact the health of the fisheries. Anglers have the ability to reduce mortality of released fish by learning and using best practices to support the fishery, the objective of the Return ‘Em Right program.

fish floating on surface with stomach out of mouth
Learn to recognize the signs of barotrauma, like a fish's stomach protruding out of its mouth.

“Research shows using best release practices can dramatically increase the survival of reef fish. This manual is yet another tool anglers can add to their tacklebox,” said Dr. Marcus Drymon, marine fisheries specialist, Mississippi State University, Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant.

two men holding fish on a boat
Bulging eyes are another giveaway of a fish suffering from barotrauma.

In December of 2021, key experts from the recreational fishing community identified the best strategies to reduce mortality of released reef fish at a two-day workshop. The manual, a product of this workshop, guides recreational anglers through choices they make during a fishing trip to maximize the chances of fish surviving release.

two hands venting a fish on a fillet table
Venting can help release built-up pressure in a fish's swim bladder but isn't always the best course of action. You'll be inflicting (a lesser) but additional trauma and you need to be precise with your poke.

“The decisions we make on the water can significantly impact the current and future status of our fisheries. There is no single best practice that can be used in every situation, so this manual serves as a guide to help anglers make informed decisions that lead to the greatest chance of survival for each fish they catch and release.” said Captain Dylan Hubbard, owner and operator, Hubbard’s Marina, Madeira Beach, Florida.

red snapper floating on surface of water
Some more subtle signifiers of barotrauma are a fish that floats on the surface, venting or descending will be required to get this specimen back to depth.

Return ‘Em Right is an angler-driven program that provides training and free release gear to Gulf of Mexico reef fish anglers who are committed to using best release practices and helping the future of the fishery. To date the program has reached nearly 30,000 offshore anglers. The Best Release Practices Manual, and accompanying fact sheets summarizing pertinent information on catch and release, can be found here.

return em right best practices manual preview
The 20-page manual is full of valuable information that you can access at any time from your device.

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