Outdoor Post

Proper Fish Handling

Proper Fish Handling

As we move into the summer months and focus on getting outside, one thing on many minds is getting back into fishing, whether it's old-fashioned catch and release at the local creek or big game fishing off the coast. Warm weather means time out on the water, cracking open some brews, and soaking up some sun.

For those new to fishing, it might seem like a pretty simple activity to get into. However, much like any other hobby that's been practiced for thousands of years, be it hunting, whittling, or farming, there are hundreds of tips and tricks that fishing novices are probably ignorant of. In this article, we'll go over some of the basics that anyone fishing should know about, whether they're new to the sport or a seasoned veteran.

Catch & Release

Catch and release fishing is a common practice in many parts of the United States. While it might sound counterintuitive to first time fishermen to throw back the fish they worked so hard to nab, it's actually a conservation strategy designed to help preserve existing populations of fish. Fishermen pay for fishing licenses, go out and fish, and then throw their catches back into the water. While great in theory, there are a number of ways this practice can be fouled up.

Hook Safety

One thing to keep in mind when you're trying to reel in fish and return them safely is to emphasize safety - not just for you, but more so for the fish itself. There are a number of hook designs that can severely injure or kill a fish if it's fully swallowed, which is why it's recommended you use non-stainless hooks, circle hooks, hooks with crimped barbs, or better yet, hooks with no barbs at all.

The benefit of using non-stainless hooks is that they'll eventually rust away if a fish wriggles out of your grasp before you can catch it. Barbed hooks, however, are designed to cut into flesh and make it extremely painful for a fish to resist the pull of the pole. When removed, they can cause massive internal damage, even if gently pulled out by the most experienced fisherman. And as the most experienced fisherman can tell you, even a 5 lb trout can wriggle out of your grip like nobody's business, making the art of unhooking a fish a quick one.

While use of a dehooker can help ease the unhooking process, it's best to avoid barbs altogether if you're planning to release the fish once caught. And if a hook looks to be deep inside a fish, it's best to just cut the line close to the hook and let the fish go. You're liable to do more damage trying to pry it out yourself.


Proper handling of a smallmouth bass


Treat Fish Humanely

While fishing is generally regarded as a family-friendly form of hunting, the truth is that they feel just as much pain as any other animal. While we can't hear their cries of pain or exhaustion, they're still feeling those things, which is why there are few general rules to follow when catching and releasing fish.

- First off, you never want to "fight" a fish until it can barely swim. This will interrupt their natural life cycle and can cause a number of injuries while the hook is still in their mouth as they try to get away.

- Never toy with a fish once you've had the hook out and are planning to return it to the water - just get it over with. Otherwise, it's just animal abuse.

- Finally, handle the fish as little as possible, and avoid touching their gills and eyes, as human oils and smells and all the things we touch (motor oil, gasoline, etc) can severely irritate a fish.