Claire Corlett

Fish Food, Fish Tanks, and More

Catch and Release Fishing

Throughout its 8,500 miles of marine coastline
and more than 2,500 artificial reefs, Florida boasts an abundance and diversity of fish
species. Every fish that swims in our waters ranks as a vital and valuable resource. With
more anglers and better equipment available, catch-and-release fishing has become essential
to insuring there will always be adequate stocks of fish to catch. Each of us must take
a hands-on approach every day we are on the water to help conserve our fisheries by practicing
catch-and-release fishing whenever possible. I’m Mark Sosin. Managing Florida’s fisheries
is a complex task based on scientific research. These scientists tell us that if you only
remember two things, most of the fish you release will survive. The first is to land
the fish quickly, rather than battle it to exhaustion. The second centers on handling
the fish as little as possible and keeping the fish in the water during the release process
without lifting it or touching it. Before you even put a bait out or make a cast,
choose the hooks you will use carefully and modify any lure that has treble hooks. Flattening
the barb on a hook increases hookups because it makes penetration easier and allows you
to release a fish with a minimum of damage to it. Studies show that inline circle hooks
lodge in the mouth some 90 percent of the time and are the recommended choice over the
traditional J-hook or offset circle hooks when using natural baits. If you use lures
with three sets of treble hooks, remove the middle set. You don’t need it. Cutting off
one of the three hooks on each of the remaining sets of trebles makes it easier to recover
the plug from the fish and your hookup rate will be just as good. When a fish is ready to be released, keep
it in the water without touching it and use a release tool to remove the hook. The fish
should swim off. If a fish is hooked deeply, don’t try to pull it out or jerk on the
leader to break it. Instead, cut the leader as close to the fish’s mouth as possible.
Choosing non-stainless steel hooks will allow the hook to rust out of the fish, should you
have to cut the line. Even some lures are made with stainless hooks, so be sure to check
before purchasing new ones. With larger fish, keep the boat moving forward slowly. Usually,
they will swim with the boat making it easier to release the fish. Don’t lift a larger
fish across the gunwale. With a sailfish or marlin, the recommended procedure is to keep
the fish in the water, swim it alongside the moving boat, and using a pair of gloves to
grab the bill with your thumbs pointing at each other. Once the hook is removed, the
moving boat will force water over the fish’s gills and it should regain its strength before
you let it go. If you find it necessary to lift a fish out
of the water, hold it horizontally with one hand under the belly to support the organs
and keep it out of the water the minimum amount of time. Lifting a fish out of the water with
a release gaff, a jaw-locking grip, or even your thumb in the jaw and not supporting the
belly will damage internal organs as well as the delicate region under the lower jaw.
A hole in the lower jaw of a fish created by a gaff destroys the vacuum that many species
create to ingest their prey. Unless you plan to keep a fish, a gaff should never be used.
If you need to use a net to control and lift a fish, it should be knotless and rubber coated
to help prevent the removal of mucus from the skin of the fish. Above all, don’t put
a hand inside the gills or hold a fish by depressing its eyes. If you remove any of the tunas, bonitos, mackerels,
and any fish taken out of deep water, the fish should be pushed back into the water
head first and forcefully to provide a rush of water over the gills. With other species,
place them back in the water gently and hold them alongside the boat. If there are strong
tidal currents or if you are in a river where there is a flow of water, simply hold the
fish so that it faces into the current and water moves across its gills.. It should revive
quickly. You can also start the boat engine and move forward slowly to create the same
effect. When there isn’t enough water flow or you
are wading or you can’t move the boat, work the fish in a Figure 8 pattern or in a lazy
S so water is forced across the gills. The key is to keep moving the fish forward rather
than forward and then backward. Moving a fish backward in the water does not allow water
to flow over the gills.. You’ll feel when a fish regains its strength and is ready to
swim off. Simply open your hands and watch it swim away. If a released fish floats back
to the surface, it’s worth the effort to recover it and try to resuscitate it again. A fish brought to the surface from deep water
often experiences an expanded air bladder that can push the stomach out of its mouth.
This condition is known as barotrauma. Signs to look for include the stomach protruding
out of the fish’s mouth, intestines out of the anus, bulging eyes, and an overall
bloated appearance. When a fish is displaying from one or all of these symptom’s, It’s
essential to remove this pressure so that the fish can return to its deep water habitat.
Several venting tools are on the market designed to puncture the air bladder and deflate the
expanded bladder. The tool should be inserted at a 45 degree angle on the fish’s side
about an inch behind the pectoral fin. The hissing noise you hear is the air escaping.
Do not puncture or attempt to push the stomach back into the fish’s mouth. It will right
itself after the fish descends into the water. Killing or mutilating a shark or barracuda
simply because they have teeth proves detrimental, serves no practical purpose, and has a negative
effect on the fishery. They are apex predators in the food chain and should be released unharmed.
Sharks have a cartilaginous skeleton instead of the bony one found in most fish. That gives
them the ability to almost bite their own tail. They are exceptionally powerful, difficult
to hold, and can move very quickly, and should be handled carefully. If the hook is in the
jaw or clearly visible, you may be able to remove it with a dehooking tool. Otherwise,
cut the leader as close to the mouth as possible and let the shark swim off. Leave the animal
in the water and don’t put your hands anywhere near the jaws of a shark. Be equally careful
with small sharks. Anglers sometimes try to hold them and end up getting bitten. Barracuda should be treated as any other fish.
Leave them in the water, use a release tool, and avoid handling them if possible. Wahoo
can also pose a danger if not handled carefully. They have incredibly sharp teeth capable of
causing a serious wound if those teeth merely brush against you. They, too, should be left
in the water if you plan to release them. If you are going to gaff a wahoo, insert the
gaff near the head of the fish. When you gaff a wahoo in the midsection, its flexible body
allows it to swing back and forth with its mouth open. Occasionally, most of us catch a fish we consider
a trophy, a record, or simply a species we would like to hang on our wall. You can release
the fish and still order the mount even months after the catch. No matter what anyone says,
taxidermists today don’t need the fish or any part of it including bills, fins, or teeth
to produce a beautiful replica mount. All you have to do is tell them the species, the
size of the fish, and any distinguishing marks. A photo will also help to create a life-like
replica. They’ll do the rest. No matter how much science does to insure
that Florida’s fisheries remain healthy and viable for the recreational angler, and
no matter how much money we spend on these projects through license fees, excise taxes,
and Sport Fish Restoration, the responsibility for protecting our fisheries belongs to the
individual angler. The key lies in developing a catch-and-release attitude fostering voluntary
release of fish that could become table fare. Always try to limit your catch rather than
catching your limit. And remember that every fish is valuable. There are no trash fish. Catch-and-release fishing is the way of the
future. It is an essential tool for maintaining our fish stocks and fisheries. With more anglersand
more sophisticated tackle and equipment, catch-and-release fishing makes a significant difference.
If each of us thinks about the future of Florida’s fisheries every day we are on the water and
every time we catch a fish, the years ahead will be bright and everyone will be able to
continue to enjoy the superb fishing that has made Florida the Fishing Capital of the

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