Unhooking And Releasing Fish For Survival
Reeling in the big mumma fish is like a dream come true. It makes all those long nights with not even a nibble worth every second. But if you’ve been fishing for a while then it’s no secret that in between the long, dark, no-nibble-nights and reeling in the big one are all those little fellas that are good fun to catch but are just too small to keep.
It’s a really important practice to respect the fishing guidelines of your state. Not adhering to these means there’s less chance that down the road you’ll get that big catch, not to mention keep our oceans and water systems thriving.
Here’s a quick guide to making sure the fish you catch get released back into the water with the best chance of survival.
1. Keep It Wet
It’s obvious, sure, but in the heat of the moment of a great catch it can be easy to lift one up onto the rocks or the boat to check out what you’ve just been wrestling with for the past 3 minutes. But lifting a fish out of water dramatically decreases it’s chances of surviving.
If you can, try to remove the hook while the fish is still in the water. If it isn’t possible to unhook in the water then bring it up onto a landing net with a wide and soft mesh. Rough, hard netting will affect the slime and scales of the fish which is their natural protection against the sea’s parasites.
If you have to touch the fish, the biggest no-no is to grab it by the belly. Doing this will almost certainly damage their internal organs and greatly reduce their chance of survival. Instead try to grab one hand under the gills (don’t touch the gills – they’re extremely sensitive) and the other just in front of the tail.
Do this all as quickly and firmly as possible so they can return to the water asap! If you want to imagine how much time they have, just think about how long you’d last holding your breath under water with some giant pair of hands holding you down!
2. Unhook Quickly
We know, easier said than done. Sometimes those slippery little buggers have a way of really getting themselves tangled. You can’t really blame them, you did just hide a hook within their food, but the point is, sometimes those hooks get real deep! It’s no real new knowledge that the longer you take to get the hook out the less chance they have of survival.
There is really no substitute for practice in this case, but there are a couple of guidelines that can help you out.
First, get yourself some fishing tools. Have handy a pair of forceps, long nosed pliers. There is just no way you can do with hands what you can with a pair of these. Particularly if you’re using barbed hooks.
If you want hook removal to be easier then barbless hooks are the way to go. If you’re using double or treble hooks you’re really going to hurt your fish and massively reduce their chance of survival. We don’t necessarily recommend these hooks if you want to keep your fish alive.
One certain way to kill your fish is by removing the hook through the gills. Never remove a hook through their gills. Take as much care as you can. This is damn hard because the clock is ticking, but do your best to focus and you might be surprised at yourself.
3. Don’t Throw The Poor Bastards Back Into The Sea
It can seem like a fun idea and you can almost imagine you’re a bit like the boy who freed Willy, but if you throw your fish back there’s a chance that when they land they’ll go into shock and float belly up. This opens them to predators, or they can even die belly up.
Instead, try gently releasing them into the water. If giving them the old Rex Hunt kiss is your thing, you’ll increase their survival chances by 3 % (do not verify this statistic).
4. Go Easy On The Photos
Alright, we know that the only reason you have Instagram is so your friends can see you in all your gilled and frilled glory, but please, make it quick. Don’t take lessons from the Kardashians who would advise you to take 100 photos and choose the best. Just take one and you can deal later with the fact that your face ain’t as pretty as you’d hoped.
Also make sure you get the hold right - don’t squash it’s belly, and don’t touch the gills.
Unsurprisingly, here at Freddy’s we’ve got all the tools you’ll ever need to ensure the best chances of keeping your catches alive. Check out here for all your fishing needs, or pop into a local store and have a browse for yourself.