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It Is Important to Handle All Fish With Care

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On: Tue, Apr 21, 2009 at 2:50PM | By: Merry Beth Ryan

It is important to remember to handle all the fish you catch with special care. Snook, along with many other saltwater species, are well worth protecting, as well as preserving. All too often we have each witnessed irresponsible anglers who disrespect the fish. I have even seen certain television fishing shows with so-called expert fishing guides mishandling the fish. There is no excuse for this behavior. A true sportsman has ethics, and he displays them every chance he gets. It is unfortunate a few bad apples spoil what a true outdoor enthusiast symbolizes. Because fishing is a sport enjoyed by all, we all need to be responsible when we are out fishing, and always remember that the fish we catch need to be properly released when we are catch-and-release fishing.

Releasing a fish in the proper manner will determine whether that fish lives or dies. Take the time to revive a fish you are releasing. Make sure the hook is out of its mouth, and then make sure your fish swims away healthy. Avoid using a towel, even if it is a wet towel; it is best to keep the fish in the water next to the boat if you will release it. Take whatever time you need to revive the fish at boat side. There is no time limit when releasing a fish. Before you let go of the fish make sure you have done everything in your power to allow that fish to swim off good and healthy. We want to make sure there will be plenty of fish left for our children and grandchildren to catch in years to come. It would be very selfish of a select few to spoil the fishing for our youth. There is no better feeling in the world than educating a young fishing enthusiast on how to properly handle a fish after catching it.

Education will help some, and more and more outdoor writers are writing articles hoping to educate anglers on the proper way to handle the fish, not only during the fight but during the release of the fish as well. It is imperative that we properly release the fish we catch to ensure they live a long productive life. The use of circle hooks has helped tremendously, nearly eliminating all gut-hooked fish. Circle hooks also enhance your odds of hooking a fish. All too often an angler will jerk the rod and pull the hook right out of the mouth of the fish. With circle hooks, at times it is best to use the rod holder, which allows the fish to pretty well hook itself; therefore, you are not tempted to jerk the hook away. On many occasions I have been just as successful using the rod holder as I was holding the rod myself. Certain fish, such as Trout, are very delicate and need to be handled with care. It is best to keep the Trout right in the water next to the boat when releasing them, especially if they are not keeper sized. Make sure your hands are wet when you handle any fish. Dry rough hands will shorten the life span of fish handled that way.

Avoid holding a fish up in a vertical position for a photo. Expert Snook biologist Ron Taylor has studied the effects this has on the fish and he suggests holding the fish in a horizontal position, versus the vertical position, gives the fish a better chance at survival after the release. If you are taking a fish out of the water to shoot a photo of it, make sure you are quick and get that fish back in the water as soon as you possibly can. A fish lives in the water and needs to be in it to survive. Just take a moment to imagine what it would be like for us to have our breathing taken away from us. Catch-and-release fishing is very rewarding; just take the proper steps to handle all the fish with respect when releasing them, so they will be there in the future for others to enjoy catching and releasing. Keep only what you can eat. Nothing upsets me more than when I catch a fish and notice some visible damage done prior to my catch. If anglers are not willing to take the time to release the fish they catch properly, they have no right fishing in the first place. I have caught several Snook that have been badly damaged around the cartilage of the mouth. I can see where someone has literally ripped the hook out and thrown the fish back into the water. Education will not cure this problem completely, but it sure can help reduce some of the unsportsman-like behaviors occurring on the water daily. It is best to simply avoid the release of a fish when dolphins are near. It is not cute to watch a dolphin time after time eat a small Snook, Redfish or Trout as an uneducated angler continues to feed the dolphins. If I am able to I will make a point to go over and politely explain to the people that what they are doing is not right. It is illegal to feed wild dolphins.

I feel better after I at least try to educate anglers who may be unintentionally feeding their released fish to the dolphin. If you have dolphins hanging around your boat on a regular basis, it is best to pick the anchor up and move to a new fishing hole. This is a great time of the year to be fishing. So why not get out there and enjoy some great fishing with your friends and family; just remember to handle the fish with care upon their release.


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