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  • Writer's pictureThe Drift Team

C&R - Catch & Release Best Practices - Do it right the first time, or they may not be a second.

Catch and Release angling is becoming more popular due to the realization that there are only so many fish in the rivers and lakes and harvesting can diminish numbers and remove future angling opportunities.   If you wish to practice catch and release please follow the guidelines listed below to ensure the fish will live to see and fight another day. 

Catch and release is incredibly effective if practiced correctly!

Steps to ensure successful C&R:

Do not completely exhaust fish:

  • Fish have a limited ability to be able to come back from complete exhaustion and can dramatically increase its mortality rate.

  • Choose gear that allows quick landing of the fish, make sure your tackle is strong enough to handle them.

Capture the fish correctly:

  • Wet your hard before touching the fish and avoid touching the fragile  eyes and gills.

  • If using a net, use a fish friendly netting such as rubber, rubber coated nylon or soft mesh.  This greatly reduces harm to the fish by not removing the protective slime of the fish or scales from abrasive materials and helps protect the eyes and gills of the fish.

  • Do not drag the fish onto rocks or sand, keep the fish off of the shore and adjacent land.  Land the fish in deep (1’-2’) water. A fish thrashing on land bruises itself and may possibly become concussed, only to swim away and later die from its injuries.  Also, dragging a fish onto any surface removes the protective slime that a fish needs to prevent disease and infection, if it is removed the mortality rate significantly increases.

  • A fish's heart and other vital organs are located just around the area of the pectoral fin. Try not to apply too much pressure in this area as it can be damaging to the fish.

Time out of water:

  • Every second a fish spends out of water reduces its chance of survival, keep the fish submerged for as long as possible.

  • If you are going to take a photo, try keeping the fish in the water, or a least practice the Three Second Rule.  Get your camera ready before hand and have a friend ready to snap the shot.  Lift the fish only inches away from the surface, supporting it by grabbing the tail and placing the other hand just under the head. Only hold it out of the water for a MAXIMUM of three seconds.

  • Even better is to snap a photo while the fish is still in the water!Do not hold the fish with your fingers under the gill plates, this is extremely damaging to the fish!

Revive it properly:

  • Hold the fish facing upstream, if in moving water, which is clean and flowing, without any kicked up sediment.  Allow water to enter the fish’s mouth and pass over the gills.  Hold the fish by the tail and gently cupped under the pectoral fins. Do not move the fish in any side to side or in a up or downstream motion, this can impede the fish’s ability to breathe.  If the fish is caught in still water, cradle the fish while it is submerged with hands away from the head and gill plates.

  • The fish will let you know it is ready for release when it strongly swims away.

Deeply Hooked Fish:

  • If a fish has been hooked deeply, or in a very sensitive area such as its gills, it is better practice to cut the line and leave the hook in place, as removing the hook will often cause more damage if removed.  Over time the hook will be ejected from the fish, on its own.

Use artificial lures, flies and egg patterns and barbless hooks:

  • Organic baits such as roe, worms, and other materials are often taken deep into a fish’s throat and often hooks into the gills and other soft tissue. Removal of the hooks when this happens often creates even more damage increasing the chance of the mortality of the fish.

  • Barbless hooks are effective and lessen the damage on the fish, especially if hooked in a sensitive area.  If you have barbed hooks, all you need to do is pinch down the barb with a pair of pliers, simple as that!

We've all come across other anglers without great fishing handling skills, pass on your knowledge for safe handling and watch it catch on!

And please remember...

  • If you catch a fish by impaling or snagging it with a hook through any part of the body other than the mouth, it must be released immediately. 

  • You are not allowed to keep the fish unless it has been hooked in the mouth.Any fish caught during a closed season, even unintentionally, must be immediately released at the place and time of capture. 

  • This includes fish that are injured at the time of capture.

  • Selling or buying any recreationally caught fish is illegal, or any of its parts, including roe.

  • It is illegal to possess a spring gaff, snagger or spear gun within 30 meters of any waterway is illegal to abandon fish or permit the flesh to spoil, if the fish is suitable for human consumption.

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