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Attention to detail

September 7, 2016

Everything you read in fishing articles these days seems to suggest that “catch and release” is the way to go. After you get your trophy fish to the boat, you remove the hook after a bit of a struggle. Then you photograph it from every conceivable angle. The slippery fish is hard to control as it struggles and maybe you drop the fish in the boat. You retrieve it and slide the barely alive carcass into the water. The fish gives a desperation kick of the tail and disappears into the depth. You think you have done a perfect job releasing that fish. Not so.

Properly releasing a fish is perhaps the most important part in the odyssey of catching a fine fish. The release is the “dessert,” the finale of a perfect encounter that completes your fishing experience. The angler, as described above, made a number of mistakes. The first one was not having a proper tool for releasing or extracting the hook. If you are fishing a single hook, there are devices for catch and release. They slide down the line and, with a gentle lift, the hook comes out of the lip. Forceps are also a great tool and necessary when you are using multiple hooks, such as treble hooks. Forceps or needle-nose pliers are invaluable when dealing with a toothy critter like a pickerel. Secondly, even taking the fish out of the water should be avoided when possible. If a fish is played gently by using the fish’s own momentum to guide it, you will have more success than by trying to overpower it. Once landed, handle your fish gently and the fish will sometimes respond by calming.

If you want to take a photo, the protocol would be to get your camera gear and your shot lined up before you remove the fish from the water or the net. Instead of using a mesh net, use rubber or soft plastic nets which are less abrasive and will not get caught in a fish’s gills. When ready, the angler poses with the fish for a few quick photos. Return the fish to the net held in the current if it looks like the fish needs some reviving. If the fish is in good shape, release it directly into the water head first into the current. It will slide gently from your wetted hands and you will see that it is not panicked and on its way to full recovery.