Top 5 tips for releasing fish

Catch and release is a common practice in Australia’s recreational fishing sector. Follow a few simple tips to maximise survival rates.

The recreational anglers I have the pleasure of knowing appreciate and look after their fisheries. This includes the environment in which they fish and the species they are chasing.

Many release the fish they catch and I’ve often wondered about their survival rates. The NSW Department of Primary Industries (NSW DPI) has researched the topic and their results are a pleasing read.

According to their research, there is over a 90% survival rate for some of Australia’s most popular recreational species, including dusky flathead, luderick, sand whiting, tailor and bass.

It’s an encouraging statistic. But it can be improved. So here are some tips to consider the next time you’re on the water:

  1. Deep hooking is the main reason fish do not survive. So it is important to hook fish in the mouth. Using lures is a good way to do this, or circle hooks when bait fishing.
  2. If a fish swallows your hook, don’t try to pull it out. Cut the line as close to its mouth as possible. Research shows most fish discard a swallowed hook within three weeks.
  3. Use knotless landing nets with soft mesh and wet your hands before handling the fish.
  4. If you intend to measure a fish, support its weight as you lift it and lay it on a smooth, wet surface. Avoid metal surfaces which can be very hot in the sun.
  5. On release, if the fish struggles to remain upright, push the fish gently through the water in one direction until it recovers. You’ll know when it is ready to go.
Handle fish you intend to release in the water to reduce stress
When handling fish be careful to support their weight
When handling fish be careful to support their weight

For more information download the NSW DPI’s Catch and Release Handbook:http://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0009/478053/nsw-recreational-fishing-catch-and-release-handbook.pdf