6 Catch and Release Fishing Tools You Should be Using

You may have heard the popular saying, "let 'em go and let 'em grow" as it pertains to releasing your catch. Catch and release fishing, including the knowledge of how to properly use catch and release tools, contributes to the conservation of our nation's fisheries by helping to sustain fish populations.

While "letting 'em grow" may be one reason you choose to release a fish, there can be other reasons too. Your fish may not meet state regulations for size (could be too big or too small), it be a personal choice you make because the species is not very good to eat, or because you'd rather the fish continue to thrive and be caught another day by another angler. Regardless of the reason, you want to be sure to release the fish so that it has the best possible chance at surviving. This means using the right tools and handling the fish as little as possible.

If you aren't familiar with the most common catch and release fishing tools, here are six that you should know about and use whenever possible:
 

  1. Lip-Gripping Tools. In order to avoid handling a fish more than necessary, and reduce your chances of coming into contact with sharp teeth or fins, you can use a lip-gripping tool. Most lip-gripping tools have a locking jaw that is placed on the lower lip of the fish. Some lip-gripping tools even come with a built-in scale for weighing your catch. Just make sure you support the body of the fish.

  2. Circle Hooks. Circle hooks are designed with the point turned perpendicular to the shank to form a circular shape. Research has shown that circle hooks are considerably less likely to become deep hooked or ingested by the fish. They are more likely to hook the fish in the side of the mouth where they can be easily removed.
    circle hook

  3. Dehookers. Dehookers are tools that are made to help you unhook a fish while it is still in the water, or to help unhook deep hooked fish. When using most types of dehookers, the end of the tool slides down around the line or leader, and then is pushed into the fish's mouth until it comes into contact with the hook. A quick downward thrust pops the hook free.
    dehooking tool

  4. Pliers. One simple release tool you should always have on hand is a pair of needle-nosed pliers. Needle-nose pliers come in handy for gripping the shanks of fishing hooks. Pliers make unhooking a fish easier and keep your fingers away from sharp teeth.

  5. Rubberized-Mesh Net. Since fish have a slime coat that helps protect them from parasites and bacteria, you can use a rubberized-mesh landing net (instead of using a nylon net) to keep the fish's slime coat intact.

  6. Bare and Wet Hands. If you need to handle a fish or want to take a photo with your catch, remember to wet your hands first. Handling a fish with wet hands (or special rubberized gloves) is the best way to maintain the protective slime coat on the fish. Don't use a cloth or towel to hold the fish since cloth will remove the protective slime coat and expose the fish to infection.

Now that you know more about the catch and release fishing tools you can use, learn about the unique techniques you should apply when catching and releasing deep-sea species.


Debbie Hanson

Debbie Hanson

Debbie Hanson is an award-winning outdoor writer, women’s sport fishing advocate, IGFA world record holder, and freshwater guide living in Southwest Florida. Hanson’s written work has appeared in publications such as Florida Game & Fish Magazine, BoatUS Magazine, and USA Today Hunt & Fish. To learn more about her work, visit shefishes2.com or follow her on Instagram @shefishes2.