hCatch and release is a confusing concept for non-anglers. The vast majority of people I speak to seem surprised that I don’t keep and eat every single bass or pike I catch when I head out. The reasons for practicing catch and release are too many to list, more often than not, so I limit my response to something concerning how releasing your catch back into the wild increases the odds you’ll be able to fish again a year from now. There’s more involved than just reeling in a fish and then throwing it back in the water, though, and today we’ll take a look at a few do’s and don’ts to help your own catch and release practices.

If you want to make the catch and release process smoother, not to mention easier on the fish, then go with barbless hooks if you can find them. If not, then flatten, file, or clip the barb with pliers or a file, which will ensure as minimal damage as possible to the fish’s flesh. 

While they’re durable, tough, plastic nets can actually injure a fish as it thrashes. Furthermore, the traditional twine nets can remove the layer of “slime” that covers fish and protects them from bacteria. Rubberized nets are a more conscientious option, and they’re gentler on the fish.

There are times, no matter how careful you might be, when your hook lodges itself deeply into the fish’s throat or gills. This makes it nearly impossible to remove the hook in a safe, timely manner. When this happens, it’s best to simply cut your line. And don’t worry; the hook will work its way out of the fish eventually. This will cost you a bit of line and perhaps a hook and lure, but it will be better for the fish, which is really top priority for a true angler.

When you release a fish, it’s vital that you do so as quickly as possible, giving the fish the best chance to recover. If you do want remember the catch, have a friend quickly snap a photo as you go through these steps. The faster you release the fish, the more effective the catch and release process will be.

Finally, rather than carelessly tossing the fish back in the lake, submerge it and hold it in an upright position. If the fish seems sluggish, face it upstream into the current or gently move it forward and backward in the water, which helps oxygen reach the gills and revives the fish quickly.

There’s more to catch and release than simply tossing your fish back into the water after you reel it in. The tips outlined above will help you ensure the fish makes it back to the water healthy and unharmed. 

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