Why Catch and Release?
Catch and release is a conservation practice developed in an effort to prevent the over harvest of fish; however, when the method is measured up, there is some debate over whether the scales tip towards benefits. Overall, studies indicate there is significant benefit to practicing catch and release, when done correctly. Code Red Fishing Charters believes in conservation efforts that will preserve fish species and the fishing experience for generations to come.
The concept of catch and release is to catch fish species and return them safely to the water by using methods that minimize injury. The reasons behind the debate are worth examining. Questions of concern develop, such as whether catch and release is a cruel practice, and whether the fish suffer injuries that later result in death. Studies indicate that the technique used will answer these questions.
Opponents to Catch and Release
Opponents to catch and release have conducted fish studies to examine concerns. Neurobiologists have long recognized that the nervous systems of fish are responsive to pain, and are equipped with endorphins, which are neurotransmitters that aid in the relief of pain. It is important to remember that the practice of catch and release can be as gentle or as cruel as the fisherman determines. Overplaying a fish and beating them against surfaces to the point of exhaustion should be avoided for obvious reasons. Technique and care will not only increase the survival rate of the fish species, but will avoid cruel practices.
Greater opposition is provided with concerns about how catch and release affects the mortality rate of fish. If the end goal is to preserve the fish species, then we must examine whether the practices help to achieve the goal or undermine it. Studies indicate that technique is key to the success of the practice.
Catch and Release Studies
Eleven studies of catch and release concluded that deep hooking and hooking in critical body areas suffered higher mortality. Studies concluded that there is a lower mortality rate when using treble hooks, instead of single hooks, that fish caught with circle hooks have better outcomes than when J-hooks are used, and cutting the line when fish are critically hooked can increase survival rates (Bartholomew & Bohnsack 2005). Among the studies examined, the mean mortality rate was 18%; however, the distribution was varied based on species, bait, hook type, hook size, depth of capture, water temperatures, and handling times outside of the water (Bartholomew & Bohnsack 2005). Overall, studies indicate that catch and release fishing is safe, beneficial and an important activity.
Proper Catch and Release
Catch and release is the practice of catching, handling, and returning fish to their natural habitat in way that avoids injury to fish species. Catch and release improves the population of fish by allowing fish to remain in their habitat to reproduce. In order to prevent target species from being over fished and disappearing, catch and release has become an important technique. However, catch and release is only as effective as the fisherman’s technique.
A fish swimming away does not guarantee survival. A returned fish may swim away to die days later. There is evidence that a fish has trouble feeding when their mouth is healing. The fish may sustain injuries during handling. However, studies indicate that fish can have a 97% survival rate when hooked and handled properly.
Avoiding injury is critical to catch and release technique. Minimizing handling time of fish outside of the water can increase survival rates. Using wet hands or gloves, and handling the fish with care is important. Always avoid squeezing the fish to prevent 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.
Removal of hooks 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. Since deep hooking leads to a higher mortality rate, cutting the line as close as possible to the hook without removing it can avoid additional trauma caused from removing the hook.
How you release a fish is just as important as how you catch it. Some fish have longer recovery times. Never assume that a fish that swims away has met full recovery. 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.
Mosquito Lagoon is an estuary located in the northern end of the Indian River Lagoon system and the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway. Common species of fish found in Mosquito Lagoon are redfish, spotted seatrout and tarpon. Our goal at Code Red Fishing Charters is to preserve fishing in Mosquito Lagoon for generations to come. Catch and release fishing practices are essential to promoting ecological integrity of Mosquito Lagoon.
If we all work together to preserve the fish species of Mosquito Lagoon with 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!
Bartholomew, Aaron, and James A. Bohnsack. “A Review of Catch-and-Release Angling Mortality with Implications for No-Take Reserves.” Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries, vol. 15, no. 1-2, 2005, pp. 129–154., doi:10.1007/s11160-005-2175-1.