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Catch and Release: Conscientious Fishing


Fishing is what we love. Fishing is what we do. No one loves fishing Mosquito Lagoon more than Code Red Fishing Charters. That is why preserving native fish populations and the ecosystem of Mosquito Lagoon is our number one priority. When catch and release is done properly, it improves the population of native fish species, and the ecosystem of the waters. Catch and release requires skill and technique to release the native fish back into the waters unharmed. To accomplish the goal of preserving the fish and waters of Mosquito Lagoon that we love so much, it takes knowledge and practice.


Preserving Redfish and other Fish Species of Mosquito Lagoon


Mosquito Lagoon is an estuary located in the northern end of the Indian River Lagoon system and the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway. It is not only a biologically diverse estuary, but it consists of mangrove wetlands and salt marshes which stabilize sediments, filter runoff, mitigate shoreline erosion, and maintain water quality. Mosquito Lagoon is a transitional environment between the land and ocean. Fresh water from uplands and tributaries mixes with the ocean water, creating a home to thriving underwater vegetation, redfish and other fish species.


More than 600 fish species and over 2000 species of plants inhabit the waters of the Indian River Lagoon System. The life of Mosquito Lagoon contributes to those numbers. Common species of fish found in Mosquito Lagoon are redfish, spotted seatrout and tarpon. Our goal is to preserve fishing in Mosquito Lagoon for generations to come. For that purpose, we need to increase awareness and employ fishing practices that promote ecological integrity. Catch and release is the practice of catching, handling, and returning fish to their natural habitat in way that avoids injury to fish species.



The most popular species of fish in Mosquito Lagoon is redfish. Mosquito Lagoon is often referred to as the “Redfish Capital of the World.” There is no argument with that title. Redfish thrive in the aquatic environment of this estuary. There are a number of contributing reasons why the ecology of the Lagoon creates a thriving habitat for redfish. However, all anglers need to be mindful of ways to preserve the species during their fishing experience. Catch and release helps to protect redfish and other species.



Catch and Release: survival vs. mortality


In a perfect world, catch and release is always effective. Truthfully, catch and release only works when done correctly. An unfortunate myth by most anglers is that catch and release is performed correctly, if a fish swims away. Biologists hold fish for observation to study mortality. Studies indicate that the behaviors of the fish at release do not always indicate whether they suffered injury from hook damage and handling. A fish swimming away does not always assure survival. Hook and handling damage can cause death at a later time, after they have been released. Studies have provided scientists with a better understanding of the factors that induce mortality and the techniques that reduce it.


What we know from studies is that fish hooked in the gills or gut have a decreased rate of survival. Hooking a gill can cause a hemorrhage and death, even when the signs are not always visible upon release. Fish that have been hooked in the gut have a lower survival rate and increased risk of bleeding, infection and injury that affects feeding. Deeply hooked fish have a drastically lower survival rate than those hooked at the lip. However, if a fish is hooked in the gut, it will have a better survival rate, if the line is cut and the hook is left in place. We can improve the survival rate of the released fish by not feeding line after a bite.


Other factors that affect survival rates are exhaustion and time out of the water. Exhaustion affects the mortality rate of the released fish. Allowing a fish to fight the experience for long periods of time causes the fish to build up fatal amounts of lactic acid. Additionally, every second a fish is kept out of water, it decreases its chance of survival. A study found that the mortality of rainbow trout more than doubled after being out of the water for 30 seconds, in comparison to those left in the water.


Conscientious Fishing Preserves Redfish and other Fish Species


The goal of Code Red Fishing Charters is to maintain an enjoyable and exciting fishing experience while being conscientious of the ecology of Mosquito Lagoon, and supporting the preservation of redfish and other fish species. When catch and release is done properly, fish and anglers benefit. Proper technique is critical to outcomes.


Avoiding injury during handling of the fish is critical to catch and release methods. The less time we handle our catch, the less stress and injury that occurs to the fish. Using wet hands or gloves, and handling the fish with care also helps to avoid injury. When handling and removing hooks, try to avoid squeezing the redfish. This avoids damage to internal organs and muscle tissue. It is important to never touch or hold a fish by the gills. Gills are a vital part of the respiratory system of a fish and can be easily damaged.


Removing a hook from the mouth of a redfish is an important step that must be accomplished safely and quickly while causing the least amount of trauma to the fish. Holding the fish in water or upside down helps to calm the fish. This makes it easier to grip and remove the hook. Having the right tools on board is necessary for safe and efficient removal of the hook. Needle-nosed pliers or hemostats work well. If the fish is hooked deeply and removal would likely cause more trauma, do not remove the hook. In that case, cut the line as close as possible to the hook and avoid removal.


Taking that photograph of our prized catch is almost necessary for every angler. Take photographs with the fish close to the water. Crouch down to the surface to avoid lifting the fish far from the water, until the camera is ready for the shot. Then you can quickly lift and take the picture with a reduction of time and distance from the water. Always hold your fish by the tail and by supporting the belly of the fish with the other hand. Always avoid touching the gills.


How you release a redfish or any fish species is equally important as how you catch and handle it. It is important to allow the fish to calm and fully recover before returning them to the water. Hold the fish underwater in an upright position and make sure they are ventilating before release. Allow the fish to swim away.



If we all work together to preserve the fish species of Mosquito Lagoon by proper catch and release technique, we can continue to enjoy fishing the Lagoon for generations to come. If you want to learn proper catch and release technique, contact Code Red Fishing Charters for a private instructional fishing charter on Mosquito Lagoon.


Call Captain Matt Lee to book your fishing charter at (386) 214-3530!


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