BOUNTIFUL – Catch and release fisherman know the proper techniques for letting a fish get back into the water.
Summer is the most important season for learning how to catch and release, and the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources is available to anglers who want to know how to release the fish without harming them.
“Fish survival is all about equipment and technique,” said Ron Stewart, a regional conservation outreach manager for DWR, in a press release sent to the Clipper. “Especially during the hot summer months.”
As water temperatures increase throughout the summer, the amount of oxygen in the water decreases, making it more difficult for fish to recover after fighting with an angler.
In the hotter areas of Utah, low water levels may also contribute to less oxygen being available for a fish being caught, which means the proper releasing techniques are more important for those smaller fishing areas.
Stewart outlined three simple rules for releasing fish back into the water: reel them in quickly, unhook them without bringing the gills out of the water, and using a silicon or rubber net in case fish have to be pulled out.
Equipment is the most important part of the releasing process, Stewart said. Using heavy tackle such as poles, lines and leaders will reduce the time it takes to land the fish.
Barbless hooks are also recommended for use, reducing the time it takes to unhook the fish.
The nets are for instances where leaving the fish in the water is not an option. Rubber or silicon nets will do less damage to the skin, scales and slime layer of the fish.
Reeling the fish in as quickly as possible will reduce the buildup of lactic acid and cortisol levels in the fish, said Stewart. Leaving the gills in the water will allow the fish to breath while the angler is unhooking and attempting to release the fish. It is also important to not touch the gills of the fish while attempting to unhook it.
If it’s absolutely necessary to take the fish out of the water, said Stewart, wet your hands and any surfaces of the fish that will come into contact with the hands.
Keeping the fish as wet as possible will reduce the chance of the scales and its slime layer to be damaged. Those layers protect the fish from bacteria, fungus and other disease-causing organisms in the water.
Anglers must also know that hanging the fish from its jaw or mouth should be avoided. Doing so can cause the fish’s jaw or backbone to break.