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When Handling and Releasing Fish, Sea Turtles, Marine Mammals, or Sea Birds

Proper handling and release techniques and tools will vary slightly from species to species, type of gear and terminal tackle, type of bait (artificial or natural), fishing location (boat, dock, shoreline, pier, lake, stream, pond, or ocean) weather conditions, angling experience and expertise. Aquatic Release Conservation will generalize proper handling and release techniques in order to cover most types of catch and release fishing with safety for the released catch and angler being the priority. Each angler will have a slightly different manner of safe release and variations are expected.

Planning Your Trip

Familiarize yourself with pertinent fishing regulations for the species you plan to catch. Make sure you have the proper tools (Dehookers, measuring tape, camera, and pliers). Use barb-less hooks or bend down the barbs on regular hooks to release fish quickly. Use strong enough tackle and land the fish quickly to minimize metabolic stress. When appropriate, replace treble hooks with single hooks to reduce handling and injury.

Handling Your Catch

Set the hook as quickly as possible to avoid deep swallowing of the hook. Do not overplay the fish. A steady consistent retrieval of the catch further reduces stress. Avoid removing the fish from the water. 15 seconds is the maximum time out of water. If you cannot avoid using a landing net, use only knotless nylon or rubber nets. Avoid touching the fish. Removing the slime (protective) barrier can cause infection. Minimize thrashing of the catch by controlling the line with the De-hooker's pigtail.

Removing The Hook Quickly And Carefully

Use a Dehooker for smaller fish hooked in the lip or foul hooked in the body. Use a Dehooker for fish that are caught on lures or with treble hooks. Use an ARC Dehooker for hooks imbedded in the mouth, throat, or esophagus. Use an ARC Dehooker for larger fish, single hooked in lip or foul hooked. A fish can be resuscitated by moving it back and forth to force water through the gills.

The ultimate success of catch and release fishing will be determined by the proper handling and release skills, techniques, and Dehookers used by anglers and fishermen. Quickly and carefully removing hooks further reduces hook wounding. Leaving the fish in the water and not touching them reduces metabolic stress and infection. Post-release mortality can be greatly minimized by conscientious anglers and fishermen who become stewards of the environment by practicing efficient and effective catch and release habits. Transferring the technology and techniques to our future generations is the key to successful fisheries conservation.

Post-Release Survival

Under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, bycatch is defined as fish that are harvested in a fishery, but are not sold or kept for personal use, and includes economic discards and regulatory discards. Bycatch does not include fish released alive under a recreational catch and release fishery management plan. The Magnuson-Stevens Act requires NMFS to minimize bycatch and bycatch mortality, to the extent practicable.