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Many people who aren’t familiar with angling assume that fishing enthusiasts bring home everything they catch so they throw them on the grill. It turns out, the thrill and joy of catching a fish are what most anglers are after, rather than looking for a tasty dinner. 

A popular practice in angling is called the Catch and Release. As the name suggests, anglers hook their catch but release it immediately after. It is a technique that has been around for decades, as fish fanatics saw the need for conservation of dwindling numbers of species. The practice also allows for other anglers the opportunity to pose with a prize catch, like Atlantic Salmon, Blue Marlin, or Sailfish. 

If you are just starting to get your feet wet with fishing, here are some essential tips you should know about the catch and release technique:


You need the right hook

There are many hooks available in the market, and the type of hook will depend on your level of expertise and comfort in catching fish. There are several types of hooks, from single to multi-point hooks called trebles. You also need to look at the tip of each hook to see if it's a barbed or barbless one. Barbed hooks make it easier to catch and hold onto prey. Barbless ones are preferred for catch-and-release because they have fewer chances of injuring the fish with smaller puncture wounds. You don’t want to harm the fish so severely that it won’t survive the release.


Know when to shake or cut the line

It is easier to release a fish that you hook by the lips or jaw. Smaller fish are easier to drag towards you by the mouth. If you have a bigger catch, however, it may avoid the hook altogether. Once you have caught hold of the catch over water, use needle-nose pliers to release the fish from the hook and back into the water.  If the fish has swallowed your bait, your hook can lead into their gut or their gills for a firm hold. It is better to cut your line and let the fish swallow the hook rather than attempt to retrieve your line which may injure its innards.

Avoid the net

If you are a new angler or you don’t yet feel confident handling your catch, it can be tempting to use a net to bring the fish up to your boat. Avoid using the net, especially if you are doing catch-and-release. You may inadvertently hit it with blunt force with the net frame, or the netting can scratch its gills and skin when it thrashes about. It can also become entangled in the mesh, making it difficult to put back into the water.


Don’t stress the fish out

Once you have hooked the fish, there is only a short timeframe by which you can release it back into the water. Reducing the amount of stress it experiences increases its likelihood of survival. Hold the fish gently in the water for a minute or two, allowing the water to soothe it. 

The goal of catch and release is to allow anglers to practice the art of fishing while keeping the prey alive. In a study, it was found that fish caught for sport had an 18% mortality rate, depending on the species. By keeping these tips in mind, you can enjoy the excitement of angling while responsibly increasing your chances of keeping your fish alive after release.

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