Consider Catch and Release Fishing

     Catch and release fishing is a great way to experience the thrill of fishing without depleting fish stock. Catching and then releasing them back into the water ensures that fish populations remain healthy. It allows other anglers to experience the joy of reeling in that big one.
• Upon releasing a fish, most anglers figure that if it swims away, it’s just fine and will survive. Unfortunately, this isn’t necessarily true. That the fish swims away under its own power doesn’t assure its survival.
• In holding fish for longer periods of time biologists have been able to determine the factors that induce mortality. Fish that are hooked in the gills or in the gut have a much lower rate of survival than those hooked in the outer portions of the mouth. If you rupture a gill with a hook, a hemorrhage ensues and the fish bleeds to death. Gut hooked fish survive poorly for a number of reasons including bleeding, impaired feeding ability, infection, and disease.
     Many people think they can bring that deeply hooked fish to the boat, cut the leader, and the hook will rust out right away. There is absolutely no data that would suggest the hook rusts away. What is clear is that deeply hooked fish have much lower chances of survival than lip hooked fish. If a fish is gut hooked, you do get better survival by cutting the line rather extracting the hook, but the survival rate is still very low.
     You can greatly improve the survival of the fish you release by not feeding line to them when they bite. Circle hooks and modified circle hooks radically decrease the rate of gut hooking.
Other Factors
     Mortality is also affected by exhaustion. A big fish fought on ultra-light tackle can’t be forced to the boat until it’s totally gassed. This can stress your catch past the brink. Exhaustion creates extremely high levels of lactic acid – potentially fatal. Also, large fish have a problem with
overheated muscles that break down in the course of a long fight. An exhausted fish has problems avoiding predators after release.
     Each second you keep a fish out of water decreases its chance of survival. Holding a fish up for a picture may be a death sentence.
     Fish have a protective outer layer of slime. Handling them with dry hands can remove that slime and leave them prone to infection. Don’t net the fish or lift them out of the water. Don’t hold them up for mug shots. Keep them submerged, reach over with a hook-out and set them free.
    Gills are internal organs. Reaching into the gill plate to hoist a fish is not recommended. It can damage sensitive tissues.
Catch and Release the Right Way
• Pinch the barb on your hook flat so it’s easily removed. Start by using the right hook. Circle hooks are the ideal choice.
• Bring the fish to the boat as quickly as possible to avoid extreme exhaustion.
• Keep the fish in the water and resuscitate it. Handle the fish gently with wet hands or moist gloves. If you must net it, use a release net made of soft knotless fabric and keep the fish under water in the net. Don’t lift the fish up in the air or squeeze it. I know you want a picture before you let it go, but that photo-op may kill the model.
• If you plan to keep a fish for the table, let the hook-up decide what you kill. If a trophy size fish is hooked in the lip for an easy release – let it go. If smaller fish is bleeding – keep it.
• Fish responsibly by altering your method or your gear to minimize hooking mortality. That may mean going to circle hooks or setting the hook a little sooner. Put deeply hooked fish in your bag and release the fish with good survivable hookup. If we are responsible in our approach today, it will mean more fish in the future for everyone. Story by Angling UnLimited

Catch and Release offers the best of both worlds for the fisherman.

Do Not Release Them - Eat Them.

A very good idea!