Catch and Release Guidelines
To Reduce Mortality in Black Basses and Other Fishes
A growing interest in catch-and-release angling and the increasing popularity of competitive tournaments have placed additional importance on live release of sport fishes. Catch and release is effective only when fish survive after release. By following these guidelines, anglers can help to increase the number of fish that live on after being caught.
Choose Your Time and Place
- Avoid catch-and-release angling in water deeper than 30 feet.
- Avoid catch-and-release angling in hot weather. Catch and release is stressful to black basses at water temperatures above 70°F, and very stressful above 80°F.
- Avoid capturing fish from spawning beds.
Choose Appropriate Gear
- Use clean, sharp hooks.
- Use barbless hooks when possible.
- Use rods, reels and lines that are heavy enough to land your target fish without excessive play.
Handle Fish Carefully
- Keep fish in water as much as possible. A good rule of thumb is not to keep it out longer than you can hold your breath.
- Weigh fish as soon as possible after capture.
- Grasp black bass by the lower jaw. Do not hyper-extend the jaw.
- Never pick up a fish by placing fingers under the gill cover or in the eye sockets.
- Remove hooks quickly, with as little tissue damage as possible.
- Wet hands before touching the fish. Dry hands remove protective slime from fishes, which leads to increased risk of infection and disease. Hands should be bare or in smooth rubber gloves. Wet cloth gloves may provide a better grip, but may remove additional slime and transfer disease organisms from one fish to another.
- If fish must be removed from the water, place them on cool, wet, smooth surfaces.
- No hot surfaces like engine covers or sun-drenched boat decks.
- Carpeted decks may be abrasive, even when wet.
- Place fish on a wet piece of plastic or soft towel, if necessary for hook removal.
- Measuring boards should be as smooth as possible. Wet board before laying fish down.