Catch and Release

Don’t Forget a Picture of your Catch!

Practicing Catch and Release is important because it is a preferred method of angling. Most states have regulations related to this practice.

No mater which part of the country you are from, as some point in time you will not be keeping most of the fish you land. Practicing Catch and Release maintains healthy fish stock. Some states may require this method on certain lakes during certain times to maintain the fish population as well as required bag or size limits. Review our Fishing Regulations section to learn more about state requirements.

Practicing Catch and Release must be done properly in order for fish to survive. There are various factors as to why some fish do or do not survive. For example, how long a fish fights on your line, where the fish is hooked, and how the fish is handled and release.

Some newer anglers keep fish out of the water too long which reduces the fish’s survival rate. Fish live in water and need to be in water to survive, so the longer you keep them out the short their life span may become. Fish do not breath air like humans do. It would be just like humans trying to survive immersed in water.

To give fish a better chance of surviving, learn and follow these tips for practicing Catch and Release.

Use barbless hooks because they can be removed easily and they reduce the amount of injury to the fish. Using needle-nose pliers makes it easy to remove the hook especially if the fish swallows the bait.

Try to land your fish as soon as you can without exhausting the fish. When water temperatures are high, oxygen levels in the water tend to decline. This can cause fish to get stressed. So it’s important that you land the fish quickly. Keep an eye on your drag. If it takes a long time to land your fish, your drag may be set too loosely.

Using a net helps with landing your fish.

Keep the fish in the water as long as you can. The longer you keep the fish out of the water the high the chance the fish won’t survive when you return it to the water. It’s best to remove the hook while the fish is in the water so it’s stays in its habitat.

If you are interested in taking a picture of your catch, pull the fish out of the water, take the picture and return the fish back to the water as soon as possible.

Before you touch the fish with your net or hands, make sure that they have been wet with the freshwater. This will reduce the amount of mucus on the fish that is removed as well as lessen the fish’s possibility of getting a bacterial infection.

When using needle-nose pliers to remove the hook, try not to damage the gills especially if the fish has swallowed the bait. You don’t want the fish to bleed out.

If you can’t remove the hook without harming the fish, cut the line leaving a small piece of line on the hook. The fish’s natural saliva will dissolve the hook and increase the survival of the fish, especially if the fish swallowed the bait. The fish may either swallow the hook or discard it in the water.

Make sure you do not put your fingers in the slits of the gills. Fish gill filaments can be damaged easily. (Fish gill filaments allow the fish to circulate blood and allows for oxygen to pass through.) If you plan on taking a picture of the fish, handle the fish by holding it near the head and tail. Bass can be held by holding the fish’s lower jaw. Place your thumb in the fish’s mouth and your forefinger underneath the chin. Bass will naturally open their mouth making it easy for you to hold it.

Before you release your fish you may want to measure it. Fish are measured in a straight line from the tip of their snout to the end of their tail. Keep a measuring tape in your tackle or tool box.

Here’s an important step about Catch and Release, when you’re ready to release your catch, hold it upright in the water and allow it to swim away. Larger aggressive fish like muskies may need assistance in the water before you release them. Because they may be slightly stunned, they may need assistance being revived. Place your hands underneath the fish’s belly or by it’s tail horizontally while in the water. You may need to move the fish forward and backwards until it revives itself. Smaller fish can be placed in the water as they generally will revive themselves without assistance.

Try your hardest to not damage the fish. If the fish is bleeding, the odds of survival can decrease. Some states have regulations related to retaining injured fish.