Anglers who fish for sport rather than survival often prefer to put fish back into the water because it helps to improve future generations of fish, and makes for better overall fishing conditions in America’s waterways. But in order to catch and release responsibly, there are some steps you should to give fish the best possible chance of survival once you return them to the water.
When fishing catch and release, the last thing you want to do is spend a lot of time with the fish out of water and in your hands. This can damage a fish’s gills and ultimately put it in a precarious situation when it is eventually released. If possible, you should keep the fish in the water when you catch it and remove the hook from its mouth with a pair of pliers or other tool to minimize your contact with its gills.
We live in a world where many people want to catch fish and then snap photos of them for social media. This might seem like a good idea, but the longer a fish is out of water, the less chance it has to survive once you release it. You should be especially mindful of this during the warmer months, as many cool-water fish will die faster than usual when you remove them from water for even a short period of time.
There are some anglers who will catch a fish, put it into the live well on their boat, and then release it back into the water later. Unfortunately, this practice can reduce the fish’s chances of surviving pretty dramatically. If you aren’t planning on keeping a fish, you shouldn’t even bother placing it in your live well. Release it right away to give it a better chance of survival.
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