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CATCH AND RELEASE
Catch and release fishing is gaining in popularity as more anglers are becoming concerned about protecting and increasing the sport fish populations around the world. Practicing good catch and release techniques provides a first-class fishing experience, while recognizing our responsibility to maintain our valuable fishing resource for future generations.
When properly handled and released, saltwater fish have an excellent chance of survival. The following guidelines can reduce injury and stress, so you can be certain that the released fish will live to be caught again. Here's what you can do to ensure the well-being of the fish that gave you so much pleasure when it was on the end of your line.
Plan Your Strategy
Familiarize yourself with any regulations in effect for the targeted species and set up your gear to facilitate the proper handling and release of the fish.
Always use the heaviest line possible for your targeted species and play and release your fish as rapidly as possible. It may give a great sense of achievement to land a fish above the breaking point of your line after a long fight, but the most likely outcome for the fish if released, is that it will soon die due to lactic acid buildup in its body. This is particularly true of large saltwater fish, such as billfish. Bear in mind that certain fish when brought up from depths greater than 40. too quickly; will experience over-inflation of their Swim Bladder due to rapid depressurization. The best technique is to reel your catch in slowly and deliberately allowing the Swim Bladder to decompress.
Use barb-less circle hooks or pinch the barb flat with pliers. This will allow you to remove the hook easily, diminishing the stress to the fish. If you plan to use artificial lures, replace treble hooks with single hooks, treble hooks cause undo damage to the fish and are difficult to remove. Modern chemically treated circle hooks with small barbs flattened are the best choice for all situations. Stainless steel hooks should be avoided, as the stomach acids of the fish will not dissolve them.
Landing the Fish
When landing the fish, it is important to minimize the .out of water. time as well as any contact with foreign surface or objects. When handling the catch, keep hands moistened or wear wet cloth gloves. This will diminish the damage to the mucous layer of the fish skin, which protects it from disease and infection. Also pay attention to keep your fingers away from gills and eyes.
If a landing net is necessary, the neoprene or the knottless soft mesh types offer the most protection against eye, gill, fin and body damage.
Do not use a gaff!
Remove hook as rapidly as possible using long nosed pliers or a de-hooking device. Since you are using a barbless hook, this process should be simple if the fish is lip- hooked. However, if the fish has swallowed the hook, simply cut the line as close to the mouth as possible prior to release. Never attempt to pull out the line of a gut-hooked fish in an attempt to retrieve your hook, this will severely injure and probably kill the fish.
Releasing the Fish
Once the fish has been freed of accessible tackle, lift it to the surface of the water supporting the underside for measurement and photographs. Then point the fish into the current or hold it in an upright position until it has regained buoyancy and its gills are working. Once your fish has recovered, allow it to gently swim away.
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