Knowing how to practice proper catch and release fishing is important for a few reasons. While there may be times when you want to cook your catch if it falls within the fishing regulations, there will also be times when you catch fish that are not within the regulations or when you just want to fish for sport. In these situations, learn how to remove a fish hook using catch and release best practices.
You might be wondering, does catch and release hurt fish? While there is some debate about whether fish feel pain like humans do, there are ways to minimize the impact through careful release practices. When it comes to the question, do fish survive catch and release? Yes, in many cases they do if proper tackle, gear, and fish hook removal practices are followed.
Check out these tips that cover types of catch and release hooks, along with how to remove a fishhook when practicing catch and release fishing.
1. Switch Treble Hooks to Single Hooks and Crimp Barbs
When possible, use lures with single hooks versus treble hooks or change out the treble hooks on your lures with single hooks (single hooks do less damage to the fish) and crimp down the barbs on the hook. Do this by holding your pliers or forceps parallel to the hook point. By holding the forceps parallel or straight with the hook, the barb will be pushed straight back and down instead of potentially weakening or breaking the hook. Barbless hooks are often considered to be one of the best types of catch and release hooks or easy release hooks you can use.
2. Use Circle Hooks When Fishing with Natural Bait
When fishing with live or natural baits, studies show that the use of circle hooks (special type of hook design with point turned perpendicularly back to the hook shank) increases the survival rates of released fish. Circle hooks are the best hooks for catch and release when you are fishing with live or natural baits because the shape of the hook helps to prevent deeply hooked or gut hooked fish.
3. Use Hooks Made from Steel and Bronze
In the event a fish does become gut hooked, many fisheries biologists recommend cutting the line as close to the hook as possible and leaving the hook in the fish to dissolve. This way, the fish isn’t kept out of the water for an excessive amount of time, and you aren’t pulling or tugging on a deeply hooked fish, which could cause more damage. Materials like steel and bronze make more dissolvable fish hooks as opposed to stainless steel, cadmium-plated, and nickel-plated hooks (which may take much longer to dissolve, especially in freshwater scenarios). Keep in mind that even “dissolvable hooks” made from steel or bronze can still take weeks or months to break down.
4. Removing Fishing Hooks Safely with Proper Tools
Find out how to unhook a fish carefully and quickly with the right tools. Avoid using any jerking or ripping motions that could cause additional injury to the fish. Ripping a hook out of a fish can also cause damage to the fish’s jaw and prevent the fish from being able to feed. Learn how to unhook fish using needle nose pliers, forceps, or a dehooking tool while holding the fish in the water or inside of a rubber landing net. Having the proper tools handy will help you quickly remove most hooks with minimal handling of the fish.
Now you know more about catch and release fishing, which types of hooks you can use to reduce harm to the fish, and how to how to remove a fish from a hook using the right tools. While not all catch and release questions are easy to answer (for example, does catch and release hurt fish?), we can all do our part to practice ethical angling to ensure sustainability and conservation of our nation’s fisheries.