We are stewards; we practice catch and release. If the regulations require that you release the fish, you are obligated. However, if the regulations allow and you do hook a fish in the esophagus with the hook pointing down, that fish might be a good candidate for the stringer.

BoatUS ANGLER: RecycledFish Stewardship Tips

Catch and Release

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We are stewards, we practice catch and release.

There are times, though, when we want to keep a fish or two. We might be tempted by the flavor of a freshly cooked fish or we could be looking to help the fishery by selectively harvesting a fish of a particular size.

The decision is never easy, especially for those of us who have been brought up to follow a catch and release ethic.

Gene Wilde and Keven Pope, researchers at Texas Tech University and the University of Nebraska, provide us with guidelines that can help us decide, if we are inclined to harvest a fish.

Wilde and Pope observed that the "two most important factors influencing survival of largemouth bass that are captured and released are the anatomical hooking location and water temperature." They add that "survival is high among largemouth bass hooked in the oral cavity." They also note that "survival is substantially lower among bass hooked in the esophagus." In esophagus-hooked fish, survival was greater for those who were hooked dorsally (hook pointing up) as opposed to those hooked ventrally (hook pointing down). Wilde and Pope speculated that the higher mortality amongst this group was due to the heart's proximity to the ventral portion of the esophagus.

This research would indicate that if we do want to take a fish home with us, we might want to select a fish that we have hooked in the esophagus. If that hook is pointing down, moreover, we might want to select that fish for harvest.

Of course, the decision may have already been made for us. If the regulations require that you release the fish, you are obligated. However, if the regulations allow and you do hook a fish in the esophagus with the hook pointing down, that fish might be a good candidate for the stringer.

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