Many of you have asked for information on catch and release fishing, and particularly how to release fish caught from deep water which have blown up due to gas expansion. This release from the Alabama Department of fish and game in the United States provides some good tips and helpful illustrations. I use an epidural needle, which I begged from a doctor friend, for degassing fish. He did give me a strange look when I asked him for it though…
WHY CATCH AND RELEASE?
A fish is too valuable a resource to be caught only once and a personal commitment to conservation adds fun to fishing. Size, season, and bag regulations often make release mandatory.
Stressed fish populations need help to recover. The future of sportfishing is in our hands.
MAKING THE CATCH
Use hooks that are barbless and made from metals that rust quickly.
Set the hook immediately. Try to prevent a fish from swallowing the bait.
Decide whether to release a fish as soon as it is hooked.
Land your quarry as quickly as possible, don’t play it to exhaustion.
Work a fish out of deep water gradually, so that it can adjust to the pressure change.
Always keep release tools handy.
HANDLING YOUR CATCH
Leave the fish in the water (if possible ) and don’t handle it. Use a tool to remove the hook or cut leader (use extreme care with large, dangerous fish). Keep the fish from thrashing.
Net your catch only if you cannot control it any other way.
When you must handle a fish:
Use a wet glove or rag to hold the fish.
Turn a fish on its back or cover its eyes with a wet towel to calm it.
Don’t put your fingers in the eyes or gills of your catch. Larger fish can be kept in the water by holding the leader with a glove or by slipping a release gaff through the lower jaw.
Avoid removing mucous or scales. Get the fish back in the water as quickly as possible.
Protect yourself from injury by handling each species carefully and correctly.
REMOVING THE HOOK
Cut the leader close to the mouth if a fish has been hooked deeply or if the hook can’t be removed quickly.
Try to back the hook out the opposite way it went in.
Use needle-nose pliers, hemostats, or a hookout to work the hook and protect your hands.
For a larger fish in the water, slip a gaff around the leader and slide it down to the hook. Lift the gaff upward as the angler pulls downward on the leader.
Do not jerk or pop a leader to break it. This damages vital organs and kills the fish.
Use a large hypodermic needle (or similar tool ) to vent the expanded swim bladder on a fish taken from deep water (see graphics below ).
Place the fish in the water gently, supporting its mid-section and tail until it swims away.
Resuscitate an exhausted fish by moving it back and forth or tow it alongside the boat to force water through its gills.
Watch the fish to make sure it swims away. If it doesn’t, recover the fish and try again.
REMEMBER, A RELEASED FISH HAS AN EXCELLENT CHANCE OF SURVIVAL WHEN HANDLED CAREFULLY AND CORRECTLY.
Venting trapped gases from a fish caught from deep water
Use the largest hypodermic needle you can find (#10 or larger) and remove the plunger. Insert hypodermic needle at a 45° angle, under a scale, near the tip of the pectoral fin and squeeze the fish gently. You will hear the trapped gases escaping. Make a needle clearing tool from a piece of stainless leader wire to clear any tissue, etc. from the needle and leave this tool in the needle between uses. Sterilize the needle with iodine or alcohol after use and store it in a safe place.