REGIONAL— For many anglers these days, catching and releasing fish is part of their normal experience. Whether it’s done to comply with a protected slot limit, or simply a personal decision to …
REGIONAL— For many anglers these days, catching and releasing fish is part of their normal experience. Whether it’s done to comply with a protected slot limit, or simply a personal decision to leave larger breeding stock, many of the fish anglers catch these days are no longer automatically headed to the frying pan.
But will the fish we catch and return ultimately survive? In truth, not every one of them will, depending on the extent of their injuries and how long they were kept out of the water.
In order to improve the survival of released fish, the DNR has developed some tips that anglers should consider in order to increase the likelihood that released fish will live to fight another day.
Tips for improving fish survival include:
Taking care to hook fish quickly when they bite. Fish hooked in the mouth almost always survive, so set the hook quickly to avoid hooking a fish deeply. Jigs, circle hooks and active baits like crankbaits are more likely to hook a fish in the mouth.
Use some restraint when fish are really biting, and it is a good idea to avoid deep water when planning to catch and release fish. Fish pulled from deep water are less likely to survive.
Have pliers ready that work well for taking hooks out. Cutting the line and leaving the hook in the fish is also a good option if you can’t remove it quickly.
Quickly land a fish to minimize a fish’s time out of water. Handle the fish firmly but carefully. Wet your hands before touching a fish to prevent removal of their protective slime coating. Rubberized nets help, too.
Unhook and release the fish while it is still in the water, if possible, and support its weight with both hands or with a net when removed from the water. Never lift them vertically from the water.
Do not place fish you plan to release on a stringer or in a live well.
Revive a fish by cradling it under the belly and gently moving it forward in the water until it swims away.
Do not release a fish that can be legally kept if it is bleeding heavily or can’t right itself.