Sport fishing is a popular pastime for many, but it's important to remember that the fish you catch should be released back into the water as quickly and safely as possible. The most important steps an angler can take to ensure a successful release are to hook and land the fish as quickly as possible, leave it in the water while you remove the hook and release it quickly. This practice of catch and release has been around for more than a century, and is designed to prevent certain species from disappearing in waters where there is intensive fishing. It's important to note that even catch-and-release fishing has an impact on the environment, and the effects can be limited by following best practices.
This includes using the right gear, not fishing at certain times, limiting the number of fish caught, and using resuscitation techniques. It's also important to be aware of the temperature of the water - if it approaches 65 degrees F (18.3 C), fish will be much more likely to die. When releasing a fish, it's important to do so as quickly as possible. This means unhooking it before releasing it, and using a landing net or discharge net if releasing from a pier.
It's also important to avoid squeezing or pricking the fish in its gills, eyes or other areas, as this can cause higher mortality rates. If you lift the fish out of the water, release it upside down and let it fall back into the water. Finally, research has shown that fish do feel pain in their mouths when they are hooked - so it's important to be gentle when removing hooks. The less damage you do to the fish's mouth when you catch it, the less likely it is that it will become infected and break permanently, which can really hinder the fish's ability to eat and grow.
By following these simple guidelines for releasing fish after sport fishing, you can help make fishing better for tomorrow through your actions today.