If you are going to release a fish that you’ve caught, keep it in the water! Remove the hook underwater, revive the fish without lifting it from the water, and let it swim away. If you want to document your catch, use a waterproof camera and take a picture of your catch underwater. You can take a picture, close up, when you are reviving your catch.

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Photograph Your Catch Underwater

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In catch and release fishing, two factors, hooking location and physiological stress, affect mortality. Physiological stress can include air exposure or exhaustion. A fish that held out of water for a length of time, for example, has a greater chance of dying after release.

Interestingly, though, when we release a fish and see it swim away, we think to ourselves, all is well.

One study, conducted by researchers at the Cape Eleuthera Institute, noted, “88 bonefish were angled, landed, and then released following different lengths of handling time and air exposure. Each was followed for an hour after release. Those that had experienced longer handling time and air exposure were relatively stationary for the first half hour...and they exhibited equilibrium dysfunction.”

As Sascha and Andy Danylchuk add, in discussing the study on Ocean Actions, “thirteen of the released bonefish were preyed on by lemon sharks or by barracuda, and most of these had been stressed by longer handling time and air exposure. They were easy targets.”

The lesson is clear. If you are going to release a fish that you’ve caught, keep it in the water! Remove the hook underwater, revive the fish without lifting it from the water, and let it swim away.

If you want to document your catch, use a waterproof camera and take a picture of your catch underwater. You can take a picture, close up, when you are reviving your catch. Keeping the camera within about a foot of the fish will allow you to capture interesting details. The flash, too, will penetrate the water at closer ranges, depending on the clarity of the water. For shots further away, you'll need to rely on natural light.

Today, there are numerous waterproof cameras aimed at the consumer market. Sony, Olympus, Pentax, Casio, Panasonic, and Fujifilm all are offering models. With increased competition, prices have dropped; many models are available for a little more that $100.

A waterproof camera can also offer a little peace of mind for those times when you go under.

Several years ago, I was fishing the Chattahoochee River and thought that the boulders about 50 yards out would be holding some trout. I waded out and as I approached the boulders, I was chest-deep in the river. I stood on my tiptoes, hoping to keep the water out of my waders, when, all of a sudden, I slipped. I found myself tumbling in the current, gasping for air. Once I got over my initial panic, I turned my body so that my back was facing downstream and started treading water. Eventually, my feet found some firm river bottom in shallower water. My ego was bruised, my clothes were soaked, but my waterproof camera, was still functional.

You can use a waterproof camera to document your catch underwater, keeping your catch in its element, and increasing its chances for survival. A waterproof camera will also survive in wet conditions.

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