Save Our Breeder Fish!
We all want to catch the biggest fish that we can. The allure of the monster is many times what drives anglers. I can still remember the biggest snook that I ever caught like it was yesterday. She was 42 inches and easily my most exhilarating fight to this day.
Let’s use the snook (my favorite species) as an example of a fish we should all handle with care. Here’s four tips to make sure that over-slot trophy swims away to spawn and make future trophies:
1. Circle Hooks
If you are a live bait fisherman you should keep circle hooks in your arsenal. I’ll spare you the preaching that we should use circle hooks at all times. However, there’s no denying that fewer big fish are gut-hooked with circle hooks than with traditional “J” hooks. I’m a firm believer that while fishing with a kid or novice angler, circle hooks are the best option. The circle hook allows a kid to simply start reeling with their rod tip up and the fish is hooked. Many times my kids are completely distracted and the fish breaks their trance when it pulls on their line. If you are using a circle hook that is no big deal as it normally sticks the fish in the corner of the mouth instead of deep in its belly. If somehow a fish still gets hooked deep the best option is to cut the hook off and let it disintegrate over time. This will be better for the fish than trying to do surgery to get it out. This means fewer big fish are hurt and more big fish live to spawn.
2. A quality landing net
Spend the money on a landing net that won’t harm the fish. A cheap net will have no coating on the fabric or twine that it’s made of. The problem is that the more abrasive the net is, the more if the fish’s protective slime layer is taken off. You can buy nets that are treated with a rubberized coating that will be less likely to rub the slime off. Think of a monster gator trout and how much slime will be rubbed off as she is flopping around in a rough landing net. The slime on a fish protects it against disease and infection. It also helps keep parasites off as well as allowing the fish to maintain the proper moisture and electrolyte balance in its body.
Using a net is important to support the fish’s weight when lifting it into the boat. Grabbing a really big fish by the jaw and lifting her that way can separate the vertebrae of the spine. It also may shift the internal organs in a way that damages the fish’s chances of recovery. The fish may swim away to die later due to internal injuries. The rule of thumb here is never hang a fish vertically. If you want to weigh your trophy you can weigh her while she’s in the landing net and subtract the weight of the net. Always be conscious of the health of the fish. Even when you’re still pumped up from catching the monster. (Note: when you catch a big fish from a pier, if possible, walk the fish down the pier in the water to the shore and land it there. It allows you to revive and release the fish from shore and betters its chance for survival.)
3. Keep your camera handy
Always assume that you are going to catch a picture- worthy fish. With camera phones these days most people have easy access to take a photo. The idea here is to make sure that the fish is not lying around out of the water for a long period of time while you unpack your camera, phone or measuring tape. Make sure everyone on the boat knows the plan to get a big fish documented and released safely. That might include a designated place to keep cameras and phones. Remember the sooner you get her back in the water the better chance she has to survive and thrive. Always take photos with one hand under the fish’s belly to support it’s weight.
4) Revive them properly
Always be willing to take the time to revive the fish properly. Get the fish back in the water quickly and get some water moving over her gills. Make sure you don’t drag the fish back and forth when doing this. Fish don’t swim backwards so it’s not natural to have water going in their gills in reverse. If you have the option to do so, it’s great to hold the fish off the side of the boat and slowly move the boat forward. This method or simply pointing the fish towards flowing water will be your best bet. Be patient. I know you will want to go catch another one but this fish is under your care now. Do the right thing. When she has recovered she will try to escape. That’s when you know she has a good chance of making it and you can release her in good conscience.
Now that you’ve cared for and documented your monster…go catch another one!
If you haven’t downloaded the Fishin’ Wizard App you can do so for free at https://get.fishinwizard.com. You can also subscribe to our newsletter to see more articles like this one.