Wheather it’s by choice or regulation, not all fish caught are kept for harvest. The ultimate goal when having to release a fish back into the water is to make sure the fish returns as healthy as possible
It’s most commonly thought that if the fish swims off, the fish will be just fine and survive. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. A fish that is returned to the water that has been mishandled, can have impairment that anglers can’t physically see.
More often than not, Southern Slam Outfitters is reeling in the fish to fill the cooler. On the chance the fish is not regulation size or in season, we take these practices to heart when handling, staging photographs, and releasing to make sure the catch is as healthy as can be before returned to the water.
Landing a fish without playing it to exhaustion can radically reduce the stress the fish sustains. Exhaustion will create exceptionally high-levels of lactic acid that will build up in the muscles – potentially fatal. To ensure a healthy release after landing you should match the appropriate tackle to the targeted species.
Fish have protective mucus on their bodies to prevent bacteria from invading the skin. To avert loss of the protective mucus it’s best to handle the fish with wet hands/gloves. Fish have very sensitive internal organs and holding them lightly is imperative. Avoid squeezing forcefully to protect internal organs and muscle tissue. Also, remember to keep your hands away from their mouth and gills as it hinders breathing.
Hooks & Removal
A circle hook is the most effective way to direct where the fish will be hooked. FWC (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission) stated “circle hooks are 90% more likely to hook a fish in the mouth instead of the esophagus or stomach”. A hook in the mouth reduces internal harm as well as the chances of needing to leave the hook in the fish. When it comes to removing the hook its best to work quickly and calmly. Having a hook removal tool on board can help dramatically when trying to unhook quickly and effectively.
Sometimes you’ll find that you have a fish that cannot swim away on its own and you’ll need to revive it. With one hand under the belly of the fish behind the gills and the other ahead of the tail immerse the fish, in an upright position facing into the current. This will allow fresh oxygenated water to pass through the gills and help the fish “catch it’s breath”. Soon after the fish will swim away on it’s own.