Top 5: Catch and Release Tips

October 3rd, 2012| No Comments

Five things you can do to make sure your catch swims away happy and healthy

Fishipedia Top 5: Catch and Release TipsKeep Handling to a Minimum

It might sound obvious, but put simply, the more you can avoid smearing your grubby paws all over a fish, the better. Keep the fish in the water while you unhook it, use forceps to quickly remove hooks (barbless ones, ideally), and if you do need to remove a fish from the water, make sure it’s for no longer than 10-15 seconds. There should never be any need for longer than that.

Once you’ve safely popped the hook out and taken a picture (more on that later), avoid the temptation to move the fish backwards and forwards in the water as you revive it – water is designed to flow in one direction (over the fish’s gills, in a front-to-back motion). This is easily achieved by gently supporting the fish as you motor along in a slow-moving boat, or pointing the fish in the direction of the oncoming current and letting the ocean work its recuperative magic.

A bonus tip here: as you’re supporting the fish in the water, gently rub a finger backwards and forwards across the top of its head – this has the effect of hypnotising the fish, giving him time to recover both strength and orientation before heading home.

Fishipedia Top 5: Catch and Release TipsBin the Boga

Boga Grips are like Big Macs – they’ve got their place, but you shouldn’t become over-reliant on them. They’re fine for holding a fish steady in the water while you remove the hook and give it the requisite time to gets its wires untangled. They’re absolutely not fine for hoisting a fish in the air by its jaw. Think about fish in their natural state, happily balancing in a state of near-weightlessness in the water, the competing forces of buoyancy and gravity combining to offset its natural weight and produce the perfect equilibrium. It doesn’t require a huge leap to work out that being suspended by its full weight from the lower jaw via the medium of small clamp is just about as far from this happy and healthy place as it’s possible to be.

And just because you’ve done this and your fish have swum away seemingly happy doesn’t make it OK. The point is, treating a fish like this can strain the tissues around its jaws and head, preventing it from feeding properly, subsequently leaving it weak and vulnerable to predation.

Fishipedia Top 5: Catch and Release TipsSnap Smarter

If you’re fishing with someone else, this one’s super easy – make sure your camera is set to go before you start preparing the fish for its close-up, not the other way round. The less a fish is out of the water, the less fatigued it will be, and the more likely it will be to evade the unsolicited attentions of nearby sharks and cudas in search of an easy meal. And, again, if you’re going to hold the fish out of the water for a picture, make sure it’s directly over the water (not in the boat) and just above the surface, just in case it should it slip from your grasp. If you can see water dripping from the fish, so much the better.

A supplementary point on this – how many samey hero shots have you seen, fish hoisted high, thrust towards the lens? Boring, right? Being creative, getting low to the water, snapping a fish returning to its home are much more interesting ways to depict your catch.

Fishipedia Top 5: Catch and Release TipsGo for the KO

Using a (slightly laboured) boxing metaphor, think of the fight as a bout in which you, the all-conquering champion, can choose between an early knockout where your opponent is dispatched quickly, having been left momentarily dazed and concussed, or a slug-fest in which you systematically brutalize your adversary, leaving him battered, bloody and at the point of near-fatal exhaustion after 12 punishing rounds.

Just in case there’s any doubt here, it’s the former scenario that you should be aiming for – keep the fight as short as possible, thereby minimizing the build-up of lactic acid in the fish’s muscles and giving it a much better chance of recovering quickly. To that end, make sure your tackle is commensurate with the job in hand – whether it’s tarpon, bonefish or permit, ensure you’ve got what’s needed to get the job done as speedily as possible.

Fishipedia Top 5: Catch and Release TipsSpot the Danger Signs

Just say you’ve been lucky enough to pitch up on a flat that’s crawling with hungry bones, all of whom seem hell-bent on impaling themselves on your fly with self-sacrificial abandon… chances are you’re going to create some disturbance. If you should subsequently happen to notice that your activities have rung some sort of aquatic dinner bell, and sharks and cudas have made an appearance, it’s probably a good idea to move on if you can. Sure, it’s tough to ship out when the going’s good, but if you’re liable to start losing fish to predators anyway, you may as well not be there. This is one occasion where it’s OK to leave fish to find fish.

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