Sunday, December 4, 2011
At last you have hooked your prize and are in for one of the great experiences of the day. Your excitement grows as you feel the tug on the other end of the line as you watch for the breech of the fish. You are enjoying the play of the fish as the struggle continues. Then comes the time to make the decision : Do I keep the fish for dinner or return it to the water to grow another couple of inches and catch it again next season?
The decision is made. Catch and release.
Once the decision is made, you realize that you have to land the fish as soon as you can. Playing the fish too long will wear it out and could make it difficult to recover fast enough for its release, thus it will end up sizzling in the skillet.
When catching and releasing a fish, remember to set the hook quickly to prevent the fish from swallowing the hook. Try not to use your net and keep the fish in the water. You should have already scouted the area and found the spot on the shore where you want to land the fish. It has to be a spot that is somewhat level and smooth to keep the fish from battering up against rocks, logs or any other piece of debris that can appear on the shoreline. It should be a spot where the fish will still be covered with water. Get the fish to this area as soon as possible to remove the hook, handling the fish as little as possible.
If you have to use a net, do NOT net the fish from behind. This gives the fish the opportunity to swim out, and start the whole landing process over again further wearing down the fish. You may be able to net the fish from the side, but the most desirable position is from the front, with the head of the fish leading into the net.
If you need to handle the fish before releasing, it is best to slip on a cotton glove. The glove enables you to grip the fish without having to squeeze it, avoiding damage to the vital organs. This also helps you not taking "slime" off the fish that it uses for protection in the water. If the fish is of any size, the glove will help you control the fish and make it easier for a successful release.
Removing a hook from a squirming fish can be difficult. The gloves will help. One trick is to hold the fish belly up. This will calm the fish for an easy hook removal. This works whether you are wearing gloves or not. When you are landing a fish on a multiple hook lure and your line is strong enough, ( remember it depends on the size of the fish ) just lift the fish out of the water while hooked to move it to your release spot. Try to secure the fish by the lip once you think it has calmed down and can avoid all the other hooks flailing around so you won't be impaled by the hooks. (Trust me on this one. Once again a story for another time). Wearing gloves in this situation is a good idea.
In summary, fish have a better chance of survival if played as little as possible, unhooked as soon as possible, and handled very lightly. Come back next year and catch it again. Always respect the fish whether catching or releasing. This starts with a clean landing and hook removal.
Try it! You'll like it.
'Til next time