Home Fishing Tips & Advice How to Safely Release Fish

How to Safely Release Fish

When fishermen go out to fish, they sometimes catch too many fish or catch fish that are too small. It is important not to be disrespectful and to not take more than you need, so these fishermen put their fish back into the water. However, there are a few warnings you need to know when putting your catch back into the water. Be quick, don’t squeeze the fish too tight, and don’t throw them, literally.

Learn Which Fish Are in the Area

If you are going fishing in a new area that you have not been to before, take some of the time out of your schedule and learn about the available fish. If you learn about the local fish, you will understand which fish are off-limits to fishers and how to spot a fish that has not reached their adult size.

Have a Container of Water Ready Before You Start Fishing

Before you begin fishing, it is good to have a large container of water with you so you can quickly place any fish that you hook in the container so they can live longer. Placing them in water will improve your survival rating if you realize that it is not the fish or the size of fish you are allowed to catch.

When the fish are in the container, refresh the water every hour, so they do not run out of oxygen from the water.

Be Fast

When you finally hook a fish and pull them out of the water and onto your ship or on land, you must be quick and work as fast as you can to see if the fish is the right species and size that you want. You must also check the age of the fish to see if you need to throw them back. The longer a fish is outside of the water, the less likely they are to survive.

And when we say be fast, we mean fast. You must inspect your fish in less than 5 seconds. It is a small window of time, but you must know that when a fish leaves the water, it stops breathing. If you wait thirty seconds, the fish you caught has a 30% chance of dying. 

Pour Water on Them

If you have a friend with you, while you inspect the fish, have your friend pour water over the fish. For the water directly over their gills so they can take in a little bit of air. Even while splashing water on them, you should not keep them out of the water for long. But pouring water on the fish is better than allowing them to suffocate.

Providing your catch with air to breathe is why having a container of water is so important. You can grab the fish and pretty places in water, so you have more time.

Don’t Squeeze or Crush the Fish with Your Grip

When you pick up your fish and inspect it or hold it, do not use your too much strength. Fish may be strong, but grabbing them in certain areas will injure them. Their injuries might cause them to die even if you quickly place them back in the water. 

Do not grip them around their stomach. This grip is known as the death grip. A fish is likely to die from being held in this area because it damages all of their internal organs.

To grip them correctly, Place one hand underneath their belly where their gills hold the end of their tail with the other hand.

Remove the Hook while Your Catch is Still in the Water or the Container

One of the toughest parts of catching and releasing a fish is taking the hook out of their mouth. They will thrash and fight you every moment, and in between their thrashings, you have to stick your hand in their mouth. 

It is recommended that an instrument like a pair of pliers or a hook removal device be used to remove the hook from its mouth. However, if the hook is lodged in their throat or their stomach, do not remove it. Wounds in these areas could be fatal to a fish.

Don’t Throw Them, Place Them in the Water

Even though fish live in the water and are quite resilient, they are not prepared to be thrown directly in the air and land on the water’s harsh surface. If you do throw the fish roughly into the water, they are likely to go into shock and stop swimming. This is especially dangerous for fish if you throw them into a river. They can go into shock and be unable to defend themselves. And do not push the fish backwards into the water either. You can damage their gills. Simply place them into the water, grip them gently until they start wiggling and swimming on their own.

If you can, walk into the water and completely submerge the fish while keeping a light grip on it.

Record, Don’t Waste Time Taking a Picture

If you are fishing with a buddy when your line starts to pool and tug, tell them to start recording. Everyone wants a photo with their catch, but remember that the longer a fish is out of the water, the more likely they are to die. Taking a picture with your fish can take more time than you think. But if the catch and release are recorded, you won’t waste any time and will still have the memory and evidence later on. 

It is important to know: How Long Do Fish Survive Out of the Water

Conclusion

Whether you are catching and releasing or fishing for your food for the next few days, it is crucial to treat fish with respect and dignity. Without them, many people would not be able to eat, and we would have to rely on food grown on land. So when you catch a fish, be as fast as you can to place them back in the water, do not grip them so hard that you break their bones, and slide them back into the water. Do not throw them. The faster and gentle you are, the more likely the fish is to survive.

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Growing up on the south shore of Long Island, Chum Charlie has always had a passion for fishing. His favorite fish to catch is a striped bass and his favorite bait to use is bunker. Off the water, he enjoys blogging and sharing his favorite fishing tips & tricks that he has learned over the years.