Why Catch and Release is More Than Just a Fishing Trend
The art and technique of catch and release plays a vital role in promoting conservation and sustainability in our fisheries by helping to maintain stable fish populations, thereby ensuring future generations can also engage in the joy of fishing. More anglers, especially GT and Tuna lure and sportfishing anglers are stepping up to ensure the consideration of a healthy fish release is one of their major considerations. Beyond ecological benefits, it aligns with ethical principles by allowing fish, especially those that have seen heavy fishing pressure or population stress in the past an opportunity to recover and flourish. Furthermore, the practice is instrumental in data collection for scientific studies, offering valuable insights into fish migration, growth rates, and overall population health. Together, these factors make catch and release an essential component of responsible and impactful fishing for the modern angler.
Catch and release is a fishing practice where anglers carefully unhook and return/release the caught fish back to the water, allowing them to survive and contribute to the ecosystem. This method aims to promote measured forward thinking on fish species conservation, uphold ethical fishing standards, and support scientific research by maintaining healthy fish populations and gathering valuable data, which can be increased with anglers contributing to research by tagging fish and proactive reporting of catches. It’s considered an important aspect of responsible fishing, balancing the sport’s enjoyment with ecological and ethical considerations. While not solely restricted to topwater and lure anglers, they are currently the highest proportion of fishers actively practicing catch and release. It is also fantastic to see initiatives like Tuna Champions increasing best practice across both taking and releasing fish, and we are proudly associated with them! Check them out at https://tunachampions.com.au/
Key considerations for effective catch and release fishing
- Use Barbless Hooks: Choose barbless hooks or crush hook barbs (circle hooks if bait fishing) to make the unhooking process easier and less damaging to the fish. Keep you line tight, and rod loaded and the chances of a fish throwing a barbless hook are slim.
- Wet Your Hands: Before handling the fish, always wet your hands and anything that a fish may come into direct contact with to reduce the removal of the fish’s protective slime layer, which can make them susceptible to infection or disease. Dry contact can increase the chances of slime removal, so keep it moist!
- Correct Landing Gear: Use a Rubber Net for small to medium sized fish or a set of non-destructive lip grips for larger GTs, Kingfish and Tuna. Rubber landing nets are gentler on the fish than traditional nylon and knotted nets, and Boga style lip grips when used correctly on large fish like Tuna and GTs can reduce the risk of injury and stress during capture. Keep the gaffs in the side pocket until you are taking a fish for the table.
- Quick Unhooking: Use needle-nose pliers or hook removers to unhook the fish as quickly and efficiently as possible to minimise stress and harm. This will aid in a faster recovery. It is crucial to act calmly but quickly, being mindful not to tear the fish’s mouth tissues or prolong its time out of water. Remember a fish out of water is like you holding you breathe in the water. Mastering the art of quick and safe unhooking is a vital skill for anyone committed to the goals of catch and release fishing.
- Proper Release Technique: Hold the fish gently in the water, allowing it to revive and swim away on its own, with water flowing through its gills. This helps the fish regain its strength and orientation before re-joining the underwater world. Large lip grips are ideal for tuna recovery. Once the fish shows signs of active movement, body orientation and seems ready, let it swim out of your hands or off the lip grips under its own effort. By adopting this careful technique, anglers can significantly improve the well-being and survival rate of released fish.
Catch and release aims for ethical and sustainable fishing, several factors can compromise its effectiveness if not carefully managed. For instance, improper hook removal can tear a fish’s mouth or gills, making it susceptible to infection or even causing death. Overhandling the fish can also strip away its protective slime layer and inflict physical injury, both of which can hamper its survival. Extended air exposure is another risk, as it can lead to irreversible gill damage and hinder the fish’s ability to ‘breathe’. Additionally, incorrectly releasing a fish without proper revival can result in disorientation or exhaustion, making it an easy target for predators. Lastly, non-ideal gear choices like ultra-light line classes on large fish, barbed hooks or abrasive nets can exacerbate physical damage, increasing the likelihood of post-release complications. Being aware of these potential issues can guide anglers in refining their catch and release practices.