Fishermen want healthy fish in the water. Catch and release fishing requires a few revisions to the original game plan.

Fishermen need to use the right equipment on the right day:

  • Bring a dehooking device or needle-nosed pliers for quick and effective hook removal.
  • Use powerful rods, reels, and lines to minimize stress on the fish.
  • Use artificial lures, flies, and circle hooks to hook fish on the lip.
  • Don’t use scents, artificial bait, gaffs, or towels since they may cause injury to the fish.
  • Use non-knotted rubber nets and tail ropes. Landing nets provide some support for the fish (without damaging its skin) and help fishermen better manage the catch. Big fish may require a tail rope.
  • Don’t fish when the water is low, or the water temperature is high. Fish get stressed out in these conditions.

Making the Catch and Handling the Fish
Fish bodies are delicate and should be handled with care:

  • For fewer injuries, stay close to the rod and be quick.
  • Keep fish wet to prevent internal injury.
  • Be careful. Clean, wet hands or gloves are best for handling fish. Fishermen should avoid squeezing or scratching the fish. Fish should never be held by the gills, gill covers, or the mouth—its organs, muscles, and jaw depend on it.

Hook Removal
If the hook is too hard to remove, just cut the line as close to the hook as possible. Otherwise:

  • Cradle the fish with a hand under its belly.
  • Relax the fish by holding it upside down.
  • Carefully remove the hook with a dehooking device.

The Release
The release doesn’t take as much energy as the catch, but it does require equal care:

  • Make sure the fish is ventilating upon release.
  • Release the fish into the current unless it’s fast-moving.
  • Let the fish swim away.
  • Don’t release deep-water fish on the surface. To help its chances of survival, deep-water fish should be released into deep water using a cage or break-off weight.

Newbies should start with an empty cooler, so if they injure a fish, they can keep it for meat and try anew.