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How to Release a Fish Like a Pro

Not every fish is a keeper. When you’ve caught a fish that either isn’t big enough to keep or just isn’t what you looking for, it’s important to safely and responsibly let it go.

Learning how to properly hold a fish while you release it will help you do your part to increase survival rates for catch and release fishing. Read on to learn some safe fish release practices you can implement on your next fishing excursion.

How to release a fish safely into the water

Here’s a quick overview of the steps you should follow when releasing a fish:

  • Keep it wet: First and foremost, if you want the fish to survive, it’s important you keep it wet. Keep the fish in the water while removing your hook or lure whenever possible, as taking it out of the water will stress it out and potentially result in suffocation if the fish is left out of the water for too long. A fish held out of water will also flop around and potentially injure itself while you’re trying to remove the hook.
  • Keep your hands wet: If, for whatever reason, you do need to bring the fish out of the water for more than a couple seconds, make sure you use wet hands. Fish do have a slimy coat that can make them difficult to handle, but trying to use a cloth or towel to handle the fish will remove its protective coat and make it susceptible to illness or infection. Keeping your hands wet might make it tougher to handle, but it will also avoid damaging the fish.
  • Be gentle: While you’re handling the fish, make sure you stay gentle. You should not squeeze the fish tightly, as this could damage some of its internal organs or its muscle tissue. Never hold the fish by the gills. Some fish will require a more delicate touch than others, but the general rules we just listed will help you keep most types of fish safe and healthy while releasing them.
  • Remove hooks and lures as quickly as possible: When you get to the point where you are ready to remove the hook or lure, make sure you do it as quickly as possible. Keep the fish in the water, or hold it upside down, which will calm it. Avoid ripping the hook out—instead, follow the curve and cause as little additional damage as possible.
  • Get additional support: There are some pieces of fishing equipment that may make it easier for you to successfully and safely catch and release your fish. Consider using a rubberized landing net if you must remove the fish from the water. These types of nets prevent damage to the slimy protective layer on the fish. You could also hold the fish horizontally rather than vertically, as this will cause less stress.

For more catch and release fishing tips and to learn more safe fish release practices, contact the team at Phantom Tri-River Charters with your questions.