Seems like mid-summer most years I end up posting a blog about catch & release and proper fish handling. Going to do it again. . . .
First of all, to those of you who think you can ignore this because you “catch all you can, and can all you catch”. BALONEY. Either by regulation or by personal choice, you WILL BE releasing at least some fish. When you do that, you might as well do it right or else it harms the resource and does none of us any good. By the way, that is why some anglers are so passionate about this topic–those fish belong to ALL of us. If you are killing ’em, even if unintentionally, then you are killing MY fish.
This is especially crucial during the heat of the summer. Without a doubt, when water temperatures are warm, even hot, it is much easier to stress fish and kill ’em. As a matter of fact, there are some anglers who will refrain from targeting species like wipers, especially big wipers during the heat of summer. Wipers are cool-water fish, especially big wipers. They can exert so much energy while being hooked and played that they can exhaust themselves and never recover in warm water. Likewise, hard-core muskie anglers will give ’em a break during the heat of the summer–they again are cool-water fish that are a lot easier to handle and successfully release when the water is cooler. We have plenty of other species to catch.
Yep, I know what some of you are going to say, “Ain’t no closed season, ain’t no one saying we cannot fish for them in the middle of the summer.” Sure, that is correct, but once again, what about the resource? What is best for the fish?
At the very least, you owe it to the fish to hook and land them as quickly as possible during the summer. In general, the quicker they are landed, the more they are left in the water, the less time they are handled, and the sooner they are released back into the water from which they came, the more likely they will be to survive. That is true anytime of year, but especially when water temps. peak.
So, if they are going to be released, DO NOT put them in the livewell, DO NOT put ’em on a stringer! As a matter of fact, fish not immediately released are technically counted as part of the daily bag.
Oh, and another thing, do not flop ’em on the floor of the boat or on the shore. Get a landing net! Put the fish in the net, and then leave the net in the water while hooks are removed. Get the camera ready if you are going to snap a quick photo or two. Then, lift, use both hands to hold them horizontally, smile, click, click, and right back in the water!
Just because they swim away does not mean they survived. A pile of catch & release studies have demonstrated that delayed mortality can be significant and is almost always way more than immediate mortality. Sure, that mis-handled fish swam away, but they are just as dead when they perish a couple, three days later. Oh, and they may not necessarily float to the surface when they succumb. “Out of sight, out of mind” may make you feel better, but not the fish.
I will admit that the only way for us to not do in any fish is to not fish. Not going for that, I will be fishing every month, twelve months out of the year. I also will catch & release just about everything I catch, even in the middle of the summer. It can be done, and our fishing can be better because of it.
Need more ideas on how and tools to make it easier?