Saturday, May 11, 2013

Catch & Release Is A Learned Art

This Photo has not been altered.  It was taken after dark on
the Matapedia River in Quebec.  There is a 25lb. salmon being
released and never touched.

What started as catch and release is ever evolving. Today we are saying live release. Tomorrow who knows what the correct saying will be. This is a controversy that I will leave for another day.
But what about those seconds or minutes between the catch and the live release that we can learn to control. I find myself standing and watching anglers with good intentions struggle to remove hooks with barbs, hold fish too tightly and have a three minute photo session. Take two please.
I know that there were times when I have been guilty of not being competent or caring enough to dispatch my fish without harm. I have killed one large salmon on purpose and will continue to take a grilse or trout from time to time. There is nothing like a shore lunch with the fish you captured a half hour ago. Say three Our Fathers and three Hail Mary's. Done.
In order to do our best, limit guilt and increase survival, we need to learn the release part of angling because timing means everything to the life of our fish.
Make sure to use a live release net on fish of size. Fish have a protective slime coat that if removed will cause infections. Always wet your hands if you must use them. On smaller fish do not touch the fish at all. This is possible by using barb free hooks. Knowing that my hooks do not have barbs allows me to remove the hook without fear. Hold your fish out of the water for as short a time as possible because the change in weight differential can be very harmful. Do not put a fish down on snow or ice as their skin will freeze. The photo session is the most damaging and critical part of your live release. For a while now I have not been worrying about photos of my fish captured. If I do, I try to make them all part of the process to let the fish go. If the hook is removed and the fish is ready to be released, keep it in the water. Ready, set, lift low, snap, down and gone. You can make this prized photo with one second out of water so long as you and your partner understand the process. Let your photographer use his camera that he knows well and you will get the best results.
The last note is on revival. The old adage of holding a fish by the tail and moving back and forth needs to be put to rest. I still see people do this today. The only revival method you should use is to hold your fish still and straight into the current while supporting their weight. In still water the only movement must be forward holding very lightly. The fish will tell you when it is time to go.
Part of the reason for our live release practice can be summed up best by Lee Wulff. "A fish is too valuable to only be caught once" I agree.


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