Q. What are some tips for successfully releasing fish?
A. The most important thing to remember about how to release fish without injuring them is to be prepared. Have the necessary equipment readily available: needle-nose pliers, forceps, line clipper, a soft mesh or coated landing net—and, oh yes—your camera.
It is critically important to minimize the time the fish is out of the water. If possible, unhook the fish while it is in the water. If taking a picture, hold larger fish horizontally with the head and body supported. Do not hold large fish vertically or by the gills or eyes.
Play and land the fish as quickly as possible and moisten your hands with water to protect the fish’s slime layer and prevent post-release infections. If the fish is deeply hooked, cut the line inside the fish’s mouth. If it is deeply hooked and bleeding, consider keeping the fish to eat as long as it is of legal size in the open angling season for that species.
With the state record fish program now accepting applications for catch-and-release muskie, flathead catfish and lake sturgeon, anglers with a potentially record-setting catch are encouraged to quickly measure and take a picture of the fish before releasing it.
Allowing state records to be set via catch-and-release presents an opportunity to recognize Minnesota’s outstanding fishing opportunities for these species while also formally honoring the skill of anglers who catch and release a trophy muskie, flathead or sturgeon. For guidelines, visit www.mndnr.gov/recordfish.
— Henry Drewes
Drewes is northwest regional fisheries manager for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in Bemidji.