The phrase means exactly what it says: after catching a fish, the angler returns it back to the water.
But of course, it's never quite as easy as it sounds. The reasons for doing it, however, are simple.
The purpose of using catch-and-release techniques in recreational fishing is to conserve and sustain the fish population. So we can all keep on fishing!
In order for catch and release to be effective, the fish needs to be unhooked and returned to the water before it becomes seriously exhausted or injured.
One of the best techniques is to use barbless hooks, which make it possible to release the fish without removing it from the water.
Below are some other catch and release techniques that will increase the fish's chances of survival.
- Use strong tackle to reduce fighting time
- Use barbless hooks for fast, easy hook removal and minimal handling time
- Use needle-nosed pliers to help unhook
- Leave fish in the water while unhooking to minimize handling
- Avoid damaging fish skin, scale and slime layers by not using nets, dry hands or dry surfaces (which can lead to fungal skin infections)
- Prevent damage to throat ligaments and gills by using proper handling techniques.
Barbless hooks can be purchased or created from a standard hook by crushing the barb(s) flat with needle-nosed pliers. If you want to make your homemade barbless hook perfect, you can sand it down with medium grit sandpaper (but it's not absolutely necessary).You can still catch just as many fish with barbless hooks as you can with barbs. And it's not difficult to prevent your prize catch from getting away too soon.
A circle hook is a type of fish hook which is sharply curved back in a circular shape. It has become widely popular among anglers in recent years because it hooks a much higher percentage of fish and is rarely swallowed, which can cause the hook to set in the gills or vital organs, and thus greatly decreases the mortality rates of released fish. The circle hook's unique shape allows it to only hook onto an exposed surface, which in the case of a fish means the corner of its mouth. The fish takes the baited hook and swallows it, and as the hook is reeled in, it is safely pulled out of the fish until it reaches the mouth. At this point it will catch the corner of the mouth of the fish, resulting in fewer gut-hooked fish.
- Keep the line tight at all times while fighting the fish
- Equip lures with split rings
- Use re-curved point or "triple grip"-style hooks on lures
Sometimes you need to snap a photo to prove you caught that fishy beauty. That's okay! But once you get your shot, don't just give your fish the ol' heave-ho and chuck it over the side! Take care to give it a proper release, so it can live to fight another day.
- Minimize time out of the water (20-30 seconds is okay)
- Avoid landing nets (specially designed catch-and-release landing nets are made for those times they're necessary)
- Avoid hanging fish from the jaw, mouth or gills
- Touch fish ONLY with wet hands and wet surfaces (like a wet towel)
- Avoid handling fish with dry hands or dry surfaces (like your t-shirt)
- Avoid setting fish down on dry surfaces such as rocks or boat gunwales.
- NEVER squeeze the fish or rip the hook out
- Hold fish horizontally, support large fish with a second hand under the belly
- When releasing, place the fish in the water gently while supporting the mid-section
- Support the fish upright in the water and move it back and forth gently until it starts to swim away
By practicing proper catch-and-release techniques you'll be helping to protect the sport fishing population for the enjoyment of future generations. Because if you're a parent, there's going to come a time when you'll want to fish with your kids, and maybe even your kids' kids some day.