Good Tips On How To Handle Fish
Never lift a fish out of the water by holding the belly area. You will almost certainly damage internal organs and it reduces survival chances dramatically.
Never lay a fish on dry ground as it will remove slime from the fish and allow the fish to be attacked by fungi and bacteria that can kill it. Mortality is also affected by exhaustion. A big fish fought on light tackle can’t be landed until it’s totally exhausted. This can stress your catch past the point of recovery. Exhaustion creates extremely high levels of lactic acid which can be fatal. An exhausted fish also has a lot of problems avoiding predators after its release. Each second you keep a fish out of water decreases its chance of survival. In a Canadian study on Rainbow trout which I recently read about detailed the following, Rainbow trout kept out of the water for 30 seconds had more than double the mortality of those left in the water. Rainbows left out of the water for 60 seconds had 6 times the mortality of those kept in the water! Holding a fish up for a photo may seem harmless but it can be a death sentence unless done with great care. Fish have a protective outer layer of slime. Handling them with dry hands can remove that slime and leave them prone to infection. Knotted nylon nets can have a similar effect,
if possible use a modern rubber net. Once you have landed the fish wet your hands before you handle it. If possible photograph the fish in the net or keep it in the net until your fishing partner, gillie or guide is ready to take your hero shot. Quickly hold the fish with great care never lifting it by the belly, take the photograph and return it ASAP. Personally if I want a photograph of a big fish I hold the tail and rest it’s side on my forearm just to support it’s weight. I get a quick photo and I will spend as long as required releasing the fish to make sure it returns to the water in the best possible condition. (Long fight = long release) I landed a Salmon on the Tay this year and it took me 30 mins plus to release her. I take great pride in returning all my Salmon in UK waters and I want to give them the best chance possible to breed and return for many years to come. I am not trying to be the social media fishing police but I am reading many articles about out of season fish being photographed which does not really bother me if it is done with great care.
The major problem for me is seeing fish handled poorly, laid on banks at the side of rods and lifted by the belly. In general mis handled. I don’t often fish still waters but when doing so I have experienced fish floating down to where I am fishing, lifeless in the water. These fish have been caught and incorrectly returned.
I have then taken time out to revive the fish and return them successfully. I am sorry but this is unacceptable. We have all made mistakes handling fish, me included. The information detailed above is what I have learned from years of chasing multi species all around the world with a fly rod like Salmon, Trout, Yellow Finn Tuna, Queen fish, GT, Sail fish, Bone fish, Barracuda, Tarpon, Snook and Shark to mention a few. The list goes on and on. This information is not aimed at the experienced anglers amongst you but it will hopefully help others. If you are new to the sport or would like any further information on landing, handling and releasing fish please don’t hesitate to PM me.
Fly Fishers International