Responsible catch-and-release fishing can help ensure continued quality fishing opportunities. Anglers can boost the odds of fish surviving catch and release by using methods that avoid internal damage caused by hooks, stress and being pulled from deep water.
- Fish hooked in the mouth almost always survive. Set the hook quickly to avoid hooking a fish deeply. Jigs, circle hooks and active baits like crankbaits are more likely to hook a fish in the mouth.
- Don’t angle for fish in very deep water, unless you plan to keep what you catch. Fizzing of fish, or the act of inserting a needle into a fish intended to deflate the gas bladder, caught from deep water can do more harm than good and is not legal.
- Have pliers ready that work well for taking hooks out. Cutting the line and leaving the hook in the fish is also a good option.
- Quickly land a fish to minimize a fish's time out of water.
- Handle the fish firmly but carefully. Wet your hands before touching a fish to prevent removal of their protective slime coating. Rubberized nets help, too.
- Unhook and release the fish while it is still in the water, if possible, and support its weight with both hands or with a net when removed from the water. Never lift them vertically from the water.
- Do not place fish you plan to release on a stringer or in a live well.
- Revive a fish by cradling it under the belly and gently moving it forward in the water until it swims away.
- Do not release a fish that can be legally kept if it is bleeding heavily or can't right itself.
Handling large fish
Large fish need special care and handling when practicing catch and release.