Fishing is a sport ever growing in popularity. With every passing season, we can see more boats on the water, which equates to more boats fishing. This means that the pressure on the fish populations is also increasing. That is why it is very important for us to only keep what we are going to eat, and release the rest. There is no need to constantly go out and keep fish to "fill the freezer full of meat". Meat hunting is meant for another breed of fishermen.
When releasing fish, it is important to do so properly. This ensures the fish a good chance of survival. You will also be assured that it will not die because of mishandling. When you bring a fish to the boat after a fight, depending on its size, gently pick it up out of the water. If he is too big for this, then a small handled gaff in the lip will do. In the case of smaller stripers(if you can reach the water), REACH IN THE WATER AND LIP THEM! If you must net them, do so but DO NOT lay them on the deck! Instead, hold the net and then lip the fish and pick it up out of the net. Laying a fish on the deck may injure it and/or damage its slime coat! Once the fish is in the boat, be careful not to touch him too much. This removes the protective outter slime coat and makes him vunerable to germs and disease. Remove the hook only if you can reach it with your hand. If the hook is deep, cut the line as close to the hook or lure as possible. It is much more important to save the life of a fish than a hook. Once the hook has been removed or the line cut, take pictures quickly and gently place him back in the water. Be sure not to keep the fish out of the water for too long! Now, gently put the fish back in the water take him by the tail. Move him back and forth in the water so as to revive him. If the fish is narrow enough to fit your hand around, do that. BE CAREFUL NOT TO SQUEEZE AND WHEN YOU MUST HANDLE FISH, DO SO WITH WET HANDS! Continue moving the fish back and forth in the water until you can feel it begin to try and swim away. When he wants to go, he will. Once again, never let a fish be dropped on the deck if you intend to release him!
One more point, if you are lipping a fish such as a Striped Bass, do not hold him in such a way that the weight on the fish is forcing his jaw to open. This damages the jaw tissue and impairs the fish's ability to feed and breathe, giving death an easy chance to come upon him. Instead, hold him vertically so that his mouth is not being forced open.
By following these simple steps, you can be sure that the fish you release will survive and grow to be caught again! Also, place a tag in a fish! It is a lot of fun to see where your fish goes to and how much he has grown. It will also give you valuable fishing information as to the habits of the fish. Thank you and good fishing!
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