Catch and Release Practices
Catch and Release Practice
Unfortunately, too many amateur and sportive fishers compete for very few fish in recent years. Therefore, efforts have started to be taken for sustainable fishing in our country too.
Legal measures such as size and season limitations and weight limits are extremely necessary and are required to be complied with in order to protect the fish stocks and to provide sustainability.
"Catch and Release" technique is a quite rational method for performing this entertaining sport independent from the limitations and avoiding harming the fauna as much as possible. This was proven to be a valuable nature-protection method.
The success of catch and release method is only possible with the survival of the released fish when its released back.
Only adopting a few simple habits, the amateur fishers may increase the chance of survival of the released fish.
In order to create a good sport fishing future in our country, to prevent excessive fishing and to ensure the sustainability of the fish populations for the next generations, it is necessary for the amateur fishers to adopt the tradition of catch and release.
The following notes will be useful for getting information regarding the instruments, techniques and methods of catch and release.
After the catch and release method, some percentage of the fish die. These deaths are usually cause of the physiological stress emerging during the fight while catching or the wounds that are caused by the hook. Some fish die despite that they have received no wounds and look in good condition. The reason of this is the lactic acid that develops in the muscles and blood of the fish due to the physiological stress that emerges during the fight. Therefore, fishing gears with appropriate thickness and tensile strength should be used and one should pay attention to pull without tiring the fish with too much fight.
One should pay attention for not to take the pulled fish out of the water. Taking the pulled fish out of the water is no different than covering the head of a marathon runner with a nylon bag.
The hook wounds may seem simple for the fishers; but the damage on the gills and internal organs are lethal. If the fish is caught deeply in the skin, in other words, if the hook is in the gullet or stomach of the fish, the researches show that the most effective method is to cut the hook or the leader.
The long attempts to take the hook off give more harm to the fish. The fish have the ability to throw out and capsulise the hooks remained in their bodies. Steel and bronze hooks are less poisonous than the stainless steel, cadmium or nickel plated hooks and they are thrown out easier.
The studies performed have shown that the death rates are higher in fishing with live baits. Therefore, use of artificial lures should be promoted. If live bait is to be used, the fishing line should not be left loose and the fish should immediately be jigged when it bites.
Capture and Release Rules:
Some methods that should be used in order to increase the survival rates of the fish are as follows:
For a successful catch and release practice, one of the most important actions that should be performed for the fishers is to take the fish onto the boat quickly and without tiring the fish, and to keep the fish in the water while removing the hook, and to release the fish as quickly as possible.
It is necessary to decide which fish to capture and which fish to release beforehand. There should not be unnecessary discussions on whether releasing the fish or not after the fish is caught.
It should not be forgotten that the fish that are kept in the fish pond to be released later have less chance of survival. It should be immediately decided and the fish should be captured or released.
Using a gaff and taking the large fish out of the water needs to be avoided.
When the big fish are taken onto the boat, they may harm themselves as well as those around.
If the hooks are unremovable by hand, hook removers or long pliers can be used. While removing the hook, it should not pull out and tear the tissues of the jaw. The best practice is to cut off and remove in the reverse direction. If it is not possible, the leader should be cut off and left.
In order to prevent gut hooks, circle hook should be used.
A fish that has swallowed the hook should not be held and lifted from the leader.
Barbless hooks should be used or their barbs should be broken.
Hands or gloves must be wetted before handling the fish.
Touching and harming the eyes or gills should be avoided.
Definitely protect the mucus on the skin by putting the fish on and/or covering by a wet towel, and lay it back and cover its eyes so that it calms down.
Keep the fish under absolute control; dropping the fish down significantly increases the death risk.
When releasing the fish into the water, put the head in the water first.
If the fish is fainted, resuscitation should be applied until it succeeds to swim on its own. While holding from its tail with one hand, move it back and forth with the other hand supporting from the jaw. If the fish is totally fainted and cannot open its jaw, you can slightly press its jaw from both sides and make the jaw open. Trying to resuscitate with very quick moves increases the physiological stress on the fish. The fish should be released once it starts trying to swim. Prolonged resuscitation efforts increase the stress.
Big pelagic kind fish should be taken onto the boat within 20 minutes at the latest. Therefore, while expecting such kinds of fish, slightly thicker gears should be used.
In order to prevent potential decompression disease, catch and release method should be avoided for deep water species. If not necessary and prohibited, they should certainly not be caught. (Grouper and Comber species!!!)
Recommendations for Catch and Release:
As the result of numerous studies carried out on catch and release method, a series of general trends have been emerged. During catch and release fishing, the following recommendations can be used.
Hand-Line Fishing Techniques:
Since the use of barbless hook shortens the catch and release duration and causes less wounding, it should be promoted.
Since they increase the risk of gut hooking (swallow), the use of live baits should be avoided and the use of artificial lure should be promoted. The fishing line should not be left loose. The fishing lines being left loose increase the risk of gut hooking. The gears and thread used should be selected suitably for the target species. This measure reduces the gear snaps and shortens the struggle duration.
Catch and release fishing should not be performed in too hot and too cold weathers.
Taking onto the Boat:
The fish should be released as soon as possible in order to prevent it from exthaustion. The fish should be taken onto the boat with wet gloves in the hand and supporting the body as much as possible. If it is necessary to use a landing net, knotless or rubber landing nets should be used. For really big fish, a basket must be used.
Photographing the Fish:
Hold the fish in the water as much as possible in order to prevent its contact with air. Never put your fingers on the gills or eyes.
Do not handle the heavy fish from the jaw; this may harm its spine or the jaw. In order not to harm the internal organs, support the body of the fish and hold in horizontal position.
During catch and release application, your hands or your fabric gloves should be wet.
In order to reduce duration of the process, always keep your camera available and ready to use. If possible, photograph the fish inside water.
Keep long pliers and hook removers available.
Remove the hook as quick as possible and while the fish is in the water.
If the fish is gut hooked, cut the leader as quickly as possible and from the shortest point, and release the fish as soon as possible.
Avoid using stainless steel hooks as their removal from the body is much more difficult and they are poisonous.
Avoid performing catch and release fishing in waters deeper than 5-6 metres.
Make sure that you consider the depth of the water it was caught while releasing the fish.
Release the fish as soon as possible.
If you do not know the technique well, avoid the discharge of the swim bladder. (Regarding this technique, there are decompression cannulas or apparatus that will lower the fish to the depth it is caught with no harm.)
If there is a current, the fish should be held as its face heading towards the current. If there is no current, move the fish gently back and forth until its gill moves get back to normal and the fish adjusts its balance.
You may release the fish when it tries to fight.
You should use these techniques and share with the other anglers around you. Make sure that you teach these techniques to your children and all other anglers. This several simple practices are extremely useful and important for us to carry sustainable fishing and our fish population under threat to the future.
Dr. Serdar GÜNSEREN
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