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Handling Fish

771 Views 9 Replies 6 Participants Last post by  Darth Wader
With all the controversy about Basscasters smallie adventure, I thought I would throw this out there. How do we handle the fish we catch. Most notable is the bass fishermen. If you check out the post by JW, Beck on the fly you will see in his picture that he is holding the fish in a vertical position by the lip. I have seen other pictures where people are holding a bass and cranking the lip down. This can't be good for the fish if you are going to release it. Let's face it, fish make there living with their mouths. I watch the "PROs" jerk a bass out of the water, throw them in a live well, race them to shore, throw them in a bag, weigh them and then grab them by the lip and shake them over there heads because they just won 20 grand. Is this a sportsman? If you were to put a human through that amount of stress they would be in the hospital for 3 days. I think we all have something to learn from JW, who knows how to handle the delicate species know as the trout.
Check out his post and give him a big welcome.
He is a valuable asset to WCF.
The Native Americans always respected their prey so that there would always be prey to harvest.
It was the immigrants that messed that up.
Please be responsible, our future depends on it.
Just my opinion and we all know how common opinions are 8)
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I hate the tourney style of skipping a fish on top of water and dragging it up onto the deck to land it. The best way is to keep the fish in the water and they usually dont thrash around too much. I dont have a camera so I dont have to worry about the pics usually.
Well, heres the way i see it. Trout are indeed a delicate species for the most part. In waters out west, there are thousands of miles of river, and about 20% of that is C&R Fly/Lure only ( some places single barbless only). Now, taking that into account along with an average of 3000-6000 fish per mile, you can see where proper handling and release plays a huge role in the overall productivity of a population.
I'm not gonna choose sides here, a fish is a fish in my oppinion, and a fisherman is a fisherman despite their choice of tools.

Back to proper handling/release. I know it sounds like preaching to some, and to others it is old-hat, but a reminder nonetheless.

!!! Fish are used to neutral bouyancy, and their bodies are not made to fully support their own weight out of water !!!!!

Number one - DO NOT hold a fish in the gills for any reason, ever, unlesss you plan to keep it!!

Number two - Keep the fish in the water at all times if possible. Ask yourself this - how long can you hold your breath after running for your life for a couple minutes ?? Same thing goes for the fish out of water. The buildup of lactic acid in the gills takes a few moments to clear its bloodstream, so placing the fish in the net in the water, or holding it in the water to recover till it swims off on its own is the way to go. And you'll be sure of doing far less damage.

Bass - Holding the fish by the lip vertically is ok for a quick grip-n-grin shot, but folding the fish over by the lip, thereby putting all the fishes weight in the lower jaw and soft tissue does a good deal of damage later after its release. The gill rakers and gills get compressed as well. You do run the risk of dislocating the jaw, tearing tendons, etc. The fish may swim away fine in our own eyes, but if that fish cannot properly use its mouth to feed - it won't last very long.

Treble Hooks - These pretty much guarantee inflicting as much damage to a fish as possible. I've noticed a trend toward using single hooks, which will still hook the fish and cause far less damage. I cannot remember the vendors or brands, but a look thru the shops will reveal a lot of options to swap out hooks on your hardbaits.
Trebles while bait fishing almost always results in gut hooking. Unless you plan on keeping every fish you catch, switch to single hooks or circle hooks.

Barbless Hooks - If you're just out for plain old fun, or don't plan to keep any fish, go barbless. Afterall, its the fight we love, and the chance to keep the fishery healthy.

Wet Hands - ALWAYS handle fish with wet hands. Dry hands, Dry Rags, Dry Gloves, all will take the slime coating off a fish. The slime is a barrier to ward off infections, without it the fish is prone to diseases.

Rubber Nets - Far better than nylon, and best of all, your hooks won't snag in them! Go with the smallest thickest mesh you can find. Smaller holes spread the fishes weight out more, and thicker material has less chance of snagging on scales, gill plates, etc.

Larger Fish ( Pike, Musky, Steelhead, Lake Run Browns, Salmon ) Same rules go as to handling and release. However one note of caution. I've seen many people "tail" fish in order to land them. By this i'm talking about grabbing the fish by the tail and carrying it that way, hanging the fish nose-down. The larger, heavier brown trout have whats called a knuckle at he tail along the spinal cord. Makes a great handle on a dead fish, but will "pop" on the larger ones,and can lead to a severed spinal cord, paralyzing the tail.

So, in the end, for any fish you plan to release, just cradle the fish with your palm under the belly and one hand under or gently holding the tail.
Again, i'm not preaching here, just adding my 2 cents. Some of us get lax time to time and don't think or remember these tips. Any fish you release has a chance to grow to its full potential, giving all of us the chance at better fishing in the coming years, and ensures our children a great place to fish.
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We actually had a pretty good discussion about this a few months back......


And for the record... I still strongly disagree with holding/palming or putting pressure on a smallmouth's belly for the safety of both the fish as well as the angler.

Welcome to the site.
I am new here and have only been able to view a small percentage of the information available. I don't want to be redundant, I am commenting on recent pictures that I have seen. When I saw the way that JW was holding the bass it just struck me that this is a person that really cares about handling fish. Thank you for the link to the other discussion. I will view it and hope that anyone else who hasn't seen it will do like wise. I have been a fisherman and conservationist since I was a kid. I love the outdoors and all living creatures.
Good information, especially about wet hands. I learned that when I was in cub scouts a very long tine ago. I saw a film where researcher documented hand prints on muskie because they were handled with dry hands. They had a fungus on there bodies in the shape of a hand.
My intention is not to choose sides, only share information.
I like to think that fish are stronger and more resilient than some people give them credit for.

Regardless, it's better to be safe than sorry. Not hard to handle fish a little differently just to be on the safe side.
Darth - thanks for the link! I know this is a hot-button topic for some, and redundant silliness for others. However, it seems that everyone who chimes in positively has a valid point or tip to offer, we may not have heard.

Frogger - i'd like to think so too. Besides, with all the mis-handling of fish, we certainly don't see hundreds of fish floating dead. Better safe than sorry though, totally agree.

Ok, lets all hit the water!
Proper fish handling always makes for a good discussion. Most guys on here are catch and release for most gamefish and that alone is a great thing. Sometimes its the little things that people do not know that ultimately end up killing a fish. I'll be the first to admit I have grabbed big pike behind the head only to have them go beserk in the boat and flop on the floor. It happens to everyone if you fish long enough. Sh*t happens sometimes but it is always a plus to be educated on the subject.
Thank You very much for the link to the the other discussion. I found it funny and informative. Liked the pic you posted and I will agree that is an excellent way to hold a fish. I have had a pike impale a hook in my hand. Luck that he shook off and all I had was a hook stuck in my had in the soft tissue between the thumb and fore finger. Grabbed my pliers, pushed it through and cut it off. Great idea to answer a question by referring to a link that has already covered it. Sounded a little mean at the beginning but calmed down at the end. What I like about this site is that it is a good bunch that seems to find common ground in the end . If only fishermen ruled the world.
LUV2FISH said:
If only fishermen ruled the world.
Amen brother! :wink:
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