CPR for Fish!

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Published on: May. 2, 2006

Last revision: Nov. 29, 2010

for effective catch-and-release is similar for most species.

Avoid Stress

What usually kills or fatally injures fish is the combination of stress they experience during capture, hook removal and handling. Temperature, the amount of oxygen available and the length of time between catch and release also come into play.

Anglers should strive to minimize stress on fish during capture by landing them quickly, before they exhaust themselves with fighting. A fish that comes in completely worn out has less chance for survival. That’s why it’s important to match your tackle size and line strength to the species you are targeting. It’s a fact that you can land large fish on ultra-light lines, but the lunkers will have lower survival rates after being released.

The best method for releasing fish is one that you are familiar with and have practiced. You can use a landing net or you can grab the fish’s lip between your thumb and forefinger. If you know you’re not going to keep the fish, it might be better to free the hook with needle-nose pliers or forceps while the fish is still in the water.

When handling fish, keep fingers away from the gills and eye sockets.

It’s OK to snap a picture of a fish before releasing it, just be careful not to drop the fish on the floor of a boat or on the ground. When measuring a fish, wet your hands and the measuring board prior to laying the fish on it and don’t let fish come into contact with any dry surfaces. You want to avoid disturbing the slime or mucous covering on the fish’s body that protects the fish from infection.

Remove hooks carefully so that you don’t injure the fish’s gills or internal organs. If the fish has swallowed the hook or the hook is deeply embedded, cut the line rather than trying to force the hook out.

In some cases, you can use wire-cutters or the cutting portion of needle-nose pliers to cut the barb from the hook, allowing easy removal. It’s easy to replace the hook with another. Often, anglers who expect to release fish flatten the barbs of their hooks. The hooks don’t pull out as long as line is kept taut, but they slip out easily when it comes time to release the fish.

If a legal-size fish is deeply hooked or there is excessive bleeding, consider keeping the fish and making a good meal of

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