Catch and release is an essential part of learning how to fish. In most cases anglers can keep their catch as a trophy or for their table. But there are cases when fish are released by state fishing rules and regulations or by choice. In the case of fishing rules and regulations, the fish may be under-sized, or the species may be regulated, or the waters themselves may be regulated. In other cases, it may be the intent of the angler from the outset. In all cases, every effort should be made to release fish quickly and unharmed.
The benefits of proper catch and release have proved vital to the future of a number of important fisheries around the country as it is a means of preserving and enhancing fish populations. It is yet another way that anglers contribute to fishing's long-standing commitment to conservation and preservation of our natural resources.
A release tool is any device that improves the survival of released fish by making it easier to get the hook out of a fish, or minimizes your contact with the fish, reducing as much stress as possible on the fish. For catch and release fishing, these tools come in several varieties, from lip grippers, to dedicated dehookers, or just a rubberized-mesh net and a pair of pliers. Some states have fishing rules that require dehookers be used to release fish. Check with your state agency on their specific fishing rules and regulations.
The basic idea behind a release tool is to get the hook out of the fish and get it back into the water without you having to handle it more than necessary. Touching a fish removes some of its protective slime coat, which can lead to an infection for the fish. In addition, tools such as lip grippers help you control the fish, so you can either keep it in the water at the side of the boat while you unhook it, or if it's small enough to hold out of the water, unhook it without risk of dropping the fish, which can cause great harm. In addition, these tools also help keep your fingers away from the mouths of sharp toothed species such as bluefish, wahoo, mackerel and the like.
There's no right release tool for every situation. Many anglers prefer one over the other depending on the species or situation. Here are the broad categories:
Fish caught in deep water may require special handling and tools for catch and release fishing. For specific release tools and other tips on how to release deep sea fish species check the FishSmart page.
Release tool photos courtesy of our partner Florida Sea Grant.
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