Best Practices for Catch & Release FishingCatch and Release
Sustain our robust fisheries by counting your total catch and handling with skill all the fish you release.
Here's an update on best practices:
- Minimize handling, since this can remove protective slime from the fish.
- If you handle a fish, use clean, wet hands.
- Support the fish beneath the head and belly.
- Minimize exposure to air, maximum 15 seconds.
- Avoid using mechanical lip-gripping devices on active fish, since this can cause jaw injury.
- If a fish's weight is desired, attach a cradle to the scale to support the fish's weight.
- Keep fingers away from the gills, damaged gills make it harder for the fish to breathe.
- Use barbless hooks, since this reduces the amount of handling needed to remove the hook.
- When fishing with bait, use circle hooks.
- If a hook is deep within the throat, cut the line as close to the hook as possible.
- This causes less damage than removing a deeply-set hook; most fish are able to reject the hook or the hook dissolves over time.
- Keep the fight short, but not too short.
- Long fight times result in an exhausted fish, which is more vulnerable to predators.
- A fish reeled in too quickly may thrash about, increasing it's chances of injury.
- Use tackle that matches the fish and conditions.
- If a fish looses equilibrium (it rolls over or goes nose down on the bottom), retrieve it until it can swim upright, then shorten the fight time on future fish.
- When retrieving a fish, be sure that water passes over the gills from front to back.
- Move the fish forward or hold it upright in the water allowing it to pump water through it's gills.
- High water temperatures may negatively impact bonefish survival after release. In warmer water, reduce fight and handling time.
- Since predators can decrease survival of fish after release, when predators become abundant and appear to become attracted to your fishing activity, consider moving to another fishing location.
- If you have caught a fish and potential predators are near, consider using a circulating live-well to hold your fish for a short time to allow releasing it some distance away from them.
Count Your Catch