BoatUS ANGLER: RecycledFish Stewardship Tips

A Fish out of Water, Part 3

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Air exposure does not act independently from water temperature, nor does it act independently from the stressors to which we subject fish prior to release:

  • Hooking location - A lip hooked fish stands a better chance of survival in comparison to fish that are deep-hooked (potentially injuring the gills or the stomach).  No matter where you’ve hooked the fish, keep your fish in the water as you remove the hook.  And, increase your chances for hooking your quarry in the lip, use single, barbless hooks.
  • Extensive exercise - A fish that is fought to exhaustion will have increased muscle lactate, decreased tissue energy stores, and alterations in plasma ionic status.  In order to land your catch rapidly, use stout tackle.  Revive your fish in the water after you’ve landed it.
  • Water temperature - As we mentioned in last week’s tip, cooler water is richer in oxygen in comparison to warm water.  A fish needs oxygen both during and after the fight to recover.  If water temperatures are too warm, find another activity to pass the time.
  • Handling - When handling a fish use wet hands.  When using a net, use a catch-and-release net and make sure it is wet before you land the fish.

Altering any one of these stressors can lead to mortality.  A fish that is mishandled may lose protective slime and fall prey to infection.  A fish that is played extensively and for a long period will need time to recover.  If water temperatures are too high, it will be difficult for a fish to recover after a fight.  And, if a fish’s gills or stomach are injured, it may be difficult for the fish to recover from the fight and the injury.

It isn't just a question of reducing air exposure.  Successful catch and release fishing involves minimizing all of these stressors.  We want the fish to survive.  But we also want it to thrive.  In each of these cases, though, it is important to keep your fish in the water to ensure that it recovers.

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