How to handle fish

How to handle fish

Handling fish.

Fish are covered with layer of slime to protect them against bacteria, parasites and other diseases either in the water around them or on the other fish and aquatic animals they come into contact with.

This slime is easily removed with handling and if you intend to return the fish alive, it’s important not to remove too much of it…

…if you’ve ever kept tropical fish before you’ll know all about this and how one damaged fish can cause disease in a tank and infect all the other fish.

So how do you give a fish the best chance of survival and help ensure there are fish to catch in the future?

There are a couple of simple steps you can take…

…first step, watch your hands! Hot dry hands are a real killer so always wet your hands before handling the fish and never, ever, ever use a cloth to hold a fish, this will remove slime and sometimes scales.

Unhook your fish quickly…and be careful ( I’ve seen anglers pull the lips off fish trying to remove the hook).  Then put them back in the water immediately…a windy day can dry a fish out real fast.

Don’t drop your fish!  The number of times well meaning anglers do everything right then drop their fish…is too often…and if it doesn’t kill the fish immediately it often dies later or is so weakened it’is taken by a predator.

If the fish is too large to hold, wet the ground before you lay it down to unhook…don’t unhook on dry dirt or sand…the fish will be a “goner”!

If it’s a smaller fish hold it tight enough to stop it flapping around and slipping out of your hands but not so tight that you do internal damage.

Unhooking a fish.

If the fish is lip hooked, remove the hook with your fingers…or use a set of pliers (always carry a set in your tackle box ‘cause they have 101 uses!)

If the fish is hooked inside the mouth… use your pliers if there’s enough room. The other thing you can use is “hook disgorger” -a thin plastic or metal tool with a slot in the end that you push down the line till it connects with the hook. Hold the line tight and when you feel the hook – push it a little further…this should free it.

Using a disgorger is very effective but takes practice to do properly without harming the fish.

If the fish is deeply hooked just cut the line! Hooks are cheap and only  take a minute to re-tie. You will save the fish if you cut the line and leave the hook where it is…the old hook, unless it is galvanised, will break down and fall out in very little time.

Finally, you can also use your pliers to push down the barbs on your hooks…

…I do this most of the time…and surprisingly you wont lose more fish if you are paying attention and holding your rod!

Pressing down the barbs makes it very easy to unhook the fish and get it back to the water safely…and when you are catching a lot of fish…that’s what you should be doing!

Returning fish to the water

Whenever possible , get close to the water, hold the fish until you start to feel it pulling away then let it swim off.  You can’t always do this if you are up on a bank, a boat or on rocks but always think of the impact on the fish. 

By taking a little care of you catch…you’ll save more fish and leave something for future generations to enjoy.

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