To release a fish, keep it in the water if you can. Handle the fish as little as possible and avoid holding with dry
hands to prevent removal of protective slime coating. Don't let the fish bounce on the boat deck, carpet or on shoreline rocks
If it's a fish without sharp teeth like a bass, hold its lower lip between your thumb and index finger. Hold
them vertically and support large fish with a hand under the belly. Grasp toothy fish (such as walleye or northern pike) across
the back of the head, with fingers and thumb holding gill plates closed. Watch out for sharp edges and if you must hold a
fish by putting your hand through the gill opening, avoid touching delicate gill filaments.
Don't keep a fish out of
water longer than you can hold your breath and never tear a hook out. This can harm the fish and it may not live. If the fish
is hooked deeply and you can't easily remove the hook, cut the line to release the fish. The hook will rust, dissolve, or
become loose without harming the fish.
If you are using bait or lures that are frequently swallowed
and deep hooking is likely to be a problem, use barbless hooks. Unhooking your catch with barbless hooks is faster, easier
and healthier for the fish.
If a fish loses consciousness, try to revive it by gently moving it forward and backward
so water moves through its gills. When the fish begins to start to struggle and can swim, let it go.
As your fish gets closer to the boat, drop your entire rod and reel to your waist. If the fish goes under the boat, get your rod tip in the water and follow it. If you can see the fish, you'll
know when it's tired. It'll roll over on his side. And if you can't see the fish, you'll be able to feel it.
or Mouth Pick-Up
Carefully avoiding hooks, many bass anglers use the thumb and index finger to grip a bass by its lower jaw. This holds the jaw wide open and temporarily
paralyzes the fish. You can also land pan fish by pulling the fish towards you with the rod. Then grab the fish by the mouth
or around the belly to remove the hook. With practise this is a very effective way to ensure that your do not hurt the fish
or outer protective coating.
Gaffing a fish should NOT be done unless you're planning to take it home. In most cases,
you should try to land your catch with a net first unless it is too big to handle. If you gaff a red snapper or a grouper
that's too small to take home, you'll be releasing a fish with a gaping hole in its side that's not likely to survive and
will possibly just be a waste. Nets are made to hold a lot of weight when handled properly you should
make this your first priority.
When netting a fish try to lead the fish into the net head first. Don't stab the net at the fish.
If you don't get it the first time, re-aim and try again. Keep the fish in the water if you plan on releasing it. If you plan
on eating the fish, get it out of the water and into the boat or on shore as soon as possible and then remove the hook.
Never hold a fish by the eyes or gills if you
plan to free it.