I am a huge fan of selective harvest and catch & release fishing. Of course releasing a fish does no good if that fish does not survive. So, one “soap box” I often crawl up on is the one about proper fish handling.
One debate when it comes to proper handling of released fish, is what chances a deeply-hooked fish has to survive. Now, I do not have the publication on this research that is being done on Northern Pike in Canada, but I did find the newspaper story to be very interesting, What Happens When a Pike Swims Off with Your Lure.
Now, I will be the first to tell you that for all fishing you better have some tools ready for removing hooks and releasing fish, and for “big toothies” like Pike and Muskies you better be prepared with leaders and appropriate tackle, Fish Handling. But, if you have fished for more than a day, you know that even with the best plans and preparations, things have a way of going shall we say, NOT as expected.
Never fear, the research being done in Canada that I referenced in that newspaper story would indicate that those fish have a good chance of survival, even if they are deeply hooked, and even if they swim off with those hooks still in their throats! In fact that story makes a couple of points that I have said before: First, if at all possible get the hooks out, but if you are going to cause even more damage by removing the hooks, cut the line and leave them. If that can work with Pike that have been deeply-hooked with multiple treble hooks hanging from crankbaits, it can work with just about any kind of bait and likely with just about any species of fish. Secondly, that can be important because the worst thing you can do is spend a lot of time handling the fish–get ’em back into the water from which they were caught as quickly as possible with as little handling as possible!
I believe one of the unique things about fishing is that even when you succeed and finally catch a fish, in most cases you still have the choice of harvesting that fish or releasing it to be caught again. Catch & release is a part of fishing in Nebraska either by regulation or by choice. Period. End of discussion. That practice can develop and maintain better fishing for all of us. As anglers, if we do our part, released fish will have an excellent chance of survival–it is something you will have to do, you might as well learn to do it right! Yes, there will be some hooking mortality, but often, if given the chance, fish we release, even deeply-hooked fish, have a better chance of survival than you might expect.