Tips on keeping caught fish alive by returning them to the water as quickly as possible.

BoatUS ANGLER: RecycledFish Stewardship Tips

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A Fish In Water

In the quest to document the catch, we’ve seen all manner of camera mounts recently.  We’ve seen cameras mounted on top of hats, cameras mounted to chest slings, James Bond-like devices that hold the camera in place on the forearm, and GoPro’s mounted on the fork of a landing net.  We’ve also seen all manner of articles dedicated to different ways to hold fish while photographing them…holds to make the fish look bigger, holds that hide the hands, holds for two fish at once, holds to kiss the fish.

Quite honestly, we do not have a problem with anglers who want creatively photograph their catch.  However, we believe the focus should be on the fish rather than the equipment or the hold.  If catch and release is your goal, then you must remember that every second you keep a fish out of water, you reduce its chance to survive.  Landing, reviving, photographing, and releasing your catch should be done quickly and efficiently in order ensure survival.  Not only should you be quick and efficient, you should focus on keeping the fish in the water.

If you plan to photograph your catch prior to release, be ready.  Have you camera handy and accessible before you land your fish.  Keep your fish in the water after you land it.  You can use a knot-free, catch and release net not only to land but also to contain your fish.  Wet your hands before handling the fish and remove the hook before you take the picture.  Secure the hook and place the line out of the way, if you happen to fumble the fish, it won’t get tangled in a dangling hook or line.  Finally, and rapidly, lift the fish from the water.  Quickly take the photograph, and return the fish to the water.  Aim to keep your fish out of the water for a matter of seconds, if even that.  Make sure to revive the fish before releasing it back into the wild.

We give a fish its best chance to survive, and indeed, to thrive if we land it rapidly, handle it carefully, resuscitate it, and keep it in the water! Study after study has shown that minimizing the time a fish is kept out of water minimizes the risk of mortality.

When we keep the fish in the water, we keep oxygen running across its gills.  With oxygen running across its gills, a fish recovers quickly and will not suffer ill effects of oxygen deprivation.  According to Steven Cooke, an Assistant Professor of Environmental Science and Biology at Carleton University, air exposure, if limited to less than 30 seconds, may not be detrimental to largemouth bass. He adds that, if possible, air exposure should be “avoided completely.”

Be ready to take your picture.  Do it rapidly and efficiently while keeping your fish in the water.  Limit the amount of time that you keep the fish out of the water to take your picture.  If you do so, the fish in your picture, will survive, thrive, and fight another day.  Who knows, someday down the road, you may take a picture of your fish’s offspring.

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