To maximise a fish’s survival when practising catch and release, it is important to follow a few simple rules.
Use methods and rigs that increase the frequency of mouth hooked fish (rather than gut hooked), for example:
- Target fish using artificial lures or kahle or circle hooks. Try to remove hooks and release fish as quickly as possible if the fish is hooked deeply, cut the line as close as possible to the fish’s mouth rather than removing the hook.
- Minimise the length of time the fish is out of the water, slide the fish onto the mat where possible rather than lifting it.
- Ideally unhook fish while it is still in the water, cradle the fish securely & minimise lifting the fish.
- The use of needle-nosed pliers or hook retrieving devices can greatly reduce time spent unhooking.
- Remove hooks from mouth-hooked fish. Stay in the area of release to make sure it does not float back to the surface.
- Use fish-friendly landing nets with soft knotless mesh, do not lip grip and lift as it will result in the death of the fish.
- Avoid knotted landing nets which may damage the fish’s scales, skin, eyes and fins.
- Handle fish firmly and carefully. Avoid dropping fish onto the bottom of boats and other hard surfaces.
- Use wet hands or wet gloves when handling fish, wet the measuring mat prior to use and have ready to minimise damage to its skin.
- A smooth, wet surface or vinyl covered foam is the most suitable surface to place fish on in order to remove hooks. Remember, many surfaces, especially metal, can become very hot in the sun.
- Do not hold or lift the fish by the gills, mouth or the eyes, cradle the fish and minimise any lifting.
- Take care to revive fish upon release if they appear exhausted (struggling to hold themselves upright and/or unable to swim away).
- Gently hold or push the fish through the water so that it obtains a good flow of water over its gills. If there is any water current, hold the fish upright facing towards the current until it starts to show signs of recovery.