Due to the steady growth in popularity of catch and release fishing, our BCF-ing experts thought it wise to give you a few handy tips and tricks for releasing your catch in the best possible condition. By showing great care during the fight, hook removal and release, we can all ensure the fish population stays strong and healthy so everyone can continue to fish well into the future.
Low impact is the aim of the game
Many fishing manufacturers both in Australia and overseas are beginning to develop products to help limit the exposure and impact that we, as anglers, make on caught fish. From using the appropriately weighted rod and line class, fish-friendly silicone nets and barbless hooks, we can all play an essential role in ensuring any caught fish can be returned safely to their waters. The use of artificial lures has also made a dramatic difference in the amount of fish casualties, with the single hooks used in all soft plastic baits greatly reducing mortality rates.
Quick fights a good fight
When fighting a fish on rod and reel, it is extremely important to minimise the length of the fight and quickly have the fish brought to hand. Fish will consume energy and in some cases cause unrepairable damage during longer fights. They also may have difficulty recovering which makes them more susceptible to predation from other fish, birds and aquatic mammals.
How long can you hold your breath?
Excessive air exposure is easily the greatest cause of release mortality. Most fish species require their gills to be submerged in order to breathe, so try to limit how long the fish is out of the water. If possible allow the fish to stay submerged during the de-hooking process or at least keep the fish wet to prevent added stress.
Handle with care
When a fish is landed, ensure you take great care in how it is held, particularly when taking that happy snap. Avoid holding from the jaw or gills as this stretches the fishes spine and can cause soft tissue injuries. Ensure the process is quick, have the camera at the ready, wet hands to protect fish slime and hold the fish securely with both hands cradling the body weight. When you’re ready to release the fish, lower in gently to allow water to pass through its gills is advised.
Barotrauma not Barratrauma
Barotrauma is a serious condition that is potentially fatal and occurs when fish ascend from the depths too quickly, and are not given adequate time to equalise the pressure in their swim bladder. Barotrauma is known to cause distended organs, bloated gut and bulging eyes. Some species of fish are more susceptible than others in both salt and freshwater, with jewfish and golden perch suffering the effects in less than 10 metres of water. If you plan to release a fish that is showing symptoms, they should be lowered through the water column with a special release weight. Another common method is venting which involves using a hollow syringe or needle to gently pierce the fish and allow the excess gas to escape. Venting should be a last resort as it helps with immediate decompression but if the needle is inserted too deeply, can lead to organ damage.
I’m in hot water
Surprisingly, the temperature of the water can play a detrimental role in fish recovery as warm water contains far less dissolved oxygen. Studies conducted on coral trout have shown a dramatic difference in mortality rate between fish caught in up to 30 degrees and the same fish caught in 33 degrees. It was also documented that the fish could handle the higher water temperatures as long as they weren’t forced to overexert themselves. If fishing tropical waters or during humid summer days it is recommended to land fish quickly and if possible swim with the fish on release.