There is no doubt that Nebraska’s muskie fisheries have garnered more attention from anglers in recent years. They should, we have some excellent opportunities to catch this greatest North American sport fish trophy.
In addition, northern pike continue to be a popular target among many Nebraska anglers. Pike also are top-of-the-food-chain, apex predators that can be large fish and a prized catch.
I hope anglers fishing any Nebraska waters where the big toothy predators are present will treat those fish as the prized, special fish they are. Harvest restrictions on Nebraska pike and muskies make it a sure bet that most, if not all, of those fish caught are going to be released. The size, sharp teeth, and sharp gill rakers of these fish make them especially challenging to handle and release. From what I have seen, a lot of Nebraska anglers could do a lot better. If you are going to have to release fish, or even if you simply choose to release them, you better do it in the best possible way.
So, want some ideas on how to step up your catch & release game?
Do not tell me “no, I am going to keep the fish I catch”. Remember, regulations are going to require you to release fish, and that means most, if not all of the muskies and pike you might catch. So, yes, you need to be at the top of the catch & release game. You need to be at the top of that game even if you are not targeting pike and muskies, even if you just might catch one by “accident”.
Yep, I am suggesting that everyone take the full fourteen plus minutes to watch this whole video. I promise, you will learn something. The fish will thank you:
Let me emphasize a few points:
First, get a net! Years ago, all we had was knotted nylon mesh landing nets. Those old landing nets were rough on fish. Not anymore. There are all kinds of nets on the market specially designed for catch & release. Buy one, use it, all the time, every species of fish. Putting fish in the net and leaving the net in the water is simply the BEST way to handle them. Do it.
Yes, fish are slimy. They are covered with a mucus slime coat and that coat is critical in protecting the fish from infection and injury. Do NOT flop the fish on the bottom of the boat, on the rocks, in the sand. If they look like they have been coated in “Shake and Bake”, they have been mis-handled and their chances for survival have been reduced.
Get some gloves and use them, especially for large fish, especially for large toothy fish. You can smart off about the lack of manliness of those of us who use gloves to handle fish. Go ahead, makes no difference to me. It does make a difference to the fish. When you are “man” enough to have handled that many fish, you will realize how necessary the gloves are.
In addition to that, the video mentions the release tools you MUST have. I will go even farther and tell you that whenever I am on the water, those tools are on my person! Not a second is wasted looking for any of them. I have them, and they get used, all the time.
Oh, you do not need no stinkin’ boat to handle fish correctly. Every angler can do things right, even if they are stuck on the bank. However, I will say this, wearing waders or getting wet, getting in the water, makes it a lot easier. There are many times when the main reason I am wearing waders is in case I catch a fish, I can get in the water to handle it.
Horizontal holds!!!!! Yes, big pike and muskies are especially challenging to handle. The video showed you how to do it. Just make sure you keep them horizontal as much as possible. They ain’t made to be held vertically. And again, that applies to EVERY fish, not just the big toothies.
Get the tools, have a plan, practice. You can get to the point where every fish can be handled, photos taken, and released in a matter of seconds. You can maximize the chances that every released fish will survive.
Why is this so important? Why are some anglers so passionate about it? If you do not do it the best you can, the fish are more likely to die. If you do not handle them the best way possible, the resource will be impacted. A poorly-handled fish is more likely to perish, and that means you will not catch that fish again. I will not have a chance to catch that fish. And yes, that makes a big difference to me. It does to you too.