release fish


Fishing hooks and jig heads can be dangerous – not for you but for the fish you’re catching. Even when you don’t want to keep your fish, many of those you catch will end up dying. Here’s how you can release fish back into the water without harming them too much and thereby maintain their numbers in your favourite fishing holes.


When you have your rod in the holder and bait trolling along at the bottom, your catch has a 50% chance of being gutted by J hooks. Circle hooks and traditional oval-shaped hooks help you mitigate this problem. Circle hooks don’t work well with soft plastic lure, though, and chances are you might miss some fish. Try to find circle-hook jig heads and you won’t miss many. You can also use circle hooks for bottom-fishing and keep undersize fish healthy for release.

With fish such as trout that flop around a lot out of water or toothy critters such as mackerel and bluefish, use dehookers.


After each fish, check your line and leader for frays and re-tie the hook. If you have spare rods, keep them rigged and ready so that you don’t lose a hot bite. Service your reels, use fresh line and the right sized tackle for your target species. Make sure that hooked fish make it to your boat.


Use rubber mesh fishing nets wherever possible. Cord nets tend to take a lot of slime off fish such as Sea Trout, and this makes them prone to germs and parasites. Ditto with coarse gloves or towels. Always wet your hands or use wet gloves.


Keep fish oriented horizontally. They’re weightless in the water. You don’t want to hang a big fish with its weight pulling on its spine. Hold its tail parallel to the water surface and support its belly with your other hand. To weigh big fish, do so in a bucket or net and then subtract the weight of the bucket or net.

Fish might not be able to swim well enough to recover after a fight – their oxygen supply is depleted, so you have to force water over their gills. If you’re inshore, hold the fish by its tail and move it back and forth briskly. With offshore species, put the boat in gear and tow the fish till it pulls away. If predators lie in wait to eat released fish near the boat, use a live well if you have one.


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Bill Matthews

Bill is as green friendly as they come. He's travelled the world, loves kayak fishing and camping.