Sportsmen who go fishing simply for the enjoyment of the activity, rather than for food, often release the fish.
This practice, called catch and release, improves the fish populations because it allows more fish to stay in their natural habitat and reproduce.
When fish are allowed the chance to survive and reproduce, it preserves the balance of the natural environment.
Sports fishers have practiced catch and release for decades, since fishing has become popular as a hobby, and many started to set the fish free in order to make sure that their population remain stable and robust, and also to ensure sustainability and avoid overfishing.
In order to prevent target species from disappearing in heavily fished waters, catch and release, who was first introduced as a management tool, has become mandatory in water bodies where a species’ survival is endangered. Catch and release is also a way to let an increasing number of fishermen enjoy fishing and successfully catch fish.
Releasing native fish will help to ensure that the enjoyment and relaxation of this activity will last for generations to come. When adopting catch and release practice, fishermen carefully return the fish to the water following certain requirements.
When it is done correctly, it results in high survival rate. As well as other fishing techniques, it takes practice to reduce the stress and injury to the fish. Learn the right techniques and you’ll soon be catching and releasing fish in a safe, proper way.
Is catch and release cruel?
There is a long-standing debate about whether catch and release is cruel, as well as there are many opinions about the survival rate of the fish.
According to researches, fish caught by hooks will suffer significant difficulties when they try to feed themselves after being released. Researchers, anyway, are unsure about how much this feeding issue could affect the fish’s ability to survive in its natural habitat.
So far, we only know that the wound caused by the hook affects the fish’s ability to feed while the mouth is healing. It’s also important to keep in mind that catch and release can be as cruel or as gentle as you make it.
Catching a fish and allowing it to be injured against the rocks or playing it to exhaustion is cruel, even if you release it while it’s still alive. However, using the right care, techniques and procedure, will increase its chances of survival. Get informed and follow the right indication to release a fish properly.
Do fish die after catch and release?
When releasing a fish, most anglers figure that if it swims away, it’s just fine and will survive. Unfortunately, this isn’t necessarily true.
It takes time and practice to master the art of catching and landing the fish in order to minimize the chances to harm the fish and to ensure its survival after it’s been released. Fish who are caught and released may still die from such injuries and that’s why it’s important to know what to do and the right techniques to use when you don’t want to keep the fish.
Once you catch the fish, be quick to release it, as a tired fish will take longer to recover and will have lower survival chances. When it eats your bait, land it as quickly as possible and then release it immediately.
Use a landing net to shorten fighting time, to reduce handling time and also to protect the fish from harm caused by the handling. Large frames with shallow nets made of rubber or small, soft, knotless mesh are your best choice.
What percent of catch and release fish die?
The fish survival rate after being released has been studied in the past years and the result of the researches show that with proper handling, fish survive at a rate which is typically above 90 percent. However, when caught on bait the survival rate only ranges among 70%-90%, depending on many aspects.
The effects of catch and release vary from species to species.
A study about fish caught in shallow water showed very high survival rates (more than 97%) for released fish, when handled correctly and caught on artificial baits such as lures.
This is because fish caught on lures are usually hooked cleanly in the mouth, which contributes to a quicker and easier release.
Other studies have observed that the survival rates for fish gut-hooked and released without trying to remove the hook are generally lower.
While catch and release may work well in shallow waters, most deep sea fish cannot adjust their body quick enough to the change of pressure, causing them to suffer “barotrauma”.
Fish with barotrauma will have their enormously swollen swim-bladder protruding from their mouth, bulging eyeballs as well as other injuries.
As they will be unable to swim or dive when released, the common practice has been to deflate the swim bladder by pricking it with a sharp object before releasing the fish. Fish suffering from barotrauma will have lower survival rates, however this will occur only to fish who are caught between 10 and 15 meters deep down the water.
Proper catch and release techniques
Not all fish will survive when caught and released. However, proper catch and release methods can result in a very high survival rate.
You should pay attention to the methods and get informed in advance, just as you research the right gear, the perfect rod or pair of fishing sunglasses.
Use artificial lures or flies, since using a bait may let the fish deeply ingest the hook, as well as resistant rod, reel and line to quickly land the fish.
Pinch the barb on your hook flat so it’s easily removed. You should also use the right hook. Single hooks are the ideal choice for catch and release fishing, as they are more easily removed, so it will take less time and they will also reduce injuries in the fish.
A long struggle for the fish may significantly increase its mortality rate, so avoid playing a fish to exhaustion, not only because it will spend more time out of the water, but also because when fighting for life, more lactic acid will build up in its muscles, reducing its chances to survive as well. More lactic acid will accumulate the longer a fish is played.
Also, try to prevent injuries: fish caught in shallow water will thrash around and possibly harm themselves, which can affect survival as well. Finally, before fishing, think about where a fish might be landed, think about the strength of the current and the average size of fish when choosing the right tackle to use.
How to properly release a fish
After you catch a fish you don’t want to keep, keep it wet and remove the hook as quickly as possible. Use a net to land it if it’s taking too long. Keeping your fish contained in a net can also reduce the chance of injuries and wounds. When removing the hook, use the right tools, like needle-nose pliers or hemostats, which are quick and efficient.
Despite your efforts, sometimes it’s necessary to leave the hook, for instance when the fish has been deeply hooked, or when the hook can’t be easily removed. In these cases, cut your line as close to the hook as possible. Forged steel hooks are made to deteriorate within months and often will not interfere with the fish’s feeding.
The next step is avoid removing the fish from the water to prevent suffocation. Use your wet hands or wet gloves to reduce loss of a fish’s protective mucus. When handling the fish, support it carefully by placing one hand under the belly and the other hand near its tail. Never squeeze a fish, since it can easily damage its internal organs and muscles, and never touch its gills, who are particularly fragile organs.
Fish bleeding from the gills will hardly survive and should be retained. Be sure to hold the fish and not release it until revived. Revive the fish by keeping it underwater, holding it in your hands. When it starts to move and swim, let it go. When restoring the fish to the water, position it facing into the current to allow the flow to re-oxygenate and stabilize it.
The most important aspect to keep in mind if you want to practice successful catch and release fishing is to use the appropriate fishing methods and gear for the size and species of fish you’re after. The right tools will decrease the fish’s stress and increase its chance of survival after being released.
Also, remember that high water temperatures (over 21 degrees Celsius) can greatly reduce survival rates, so fishermen should take extra care when practicing catch and release when water flows are low and water temperatures are high (typically during summer).
When done correctly, catch and release can minimize serious injury to fish so that populations can go on to replenish the waters. It is beneficial to the fish population and helps to keep the aquatic environments in proper ecological balance.
Bad fishing practice can leave our seas and rivers in critical conditions. In order to ensure plentiful fishing endeavors, responsible fishing practices are necessary for all fisherman to enjoy the thrill of the catch.