Landing and Releasing Fish

tfo_logo_ovalBy Lefty Kreh and TFO

Line has been recovered; the fish has been fought, now it is time to land the thing.

Although a lengthy fight can be detrimental to a fish, the most dangerous few seconds of a fish’s life will take place while it is transiting from fighting mode, to landing and being released.

Will the angler carefully net the catch, unhook it while still in the water or grab it by the lip and hoist it skyward?

In these precious seconds, the anglers action can be the deciding factor in whether or not the fish will survive once released.

By properly netting and handling fish, a healthy return to the water is almost a guarantee. Photo Courtesy of Bob Clouser.

By properly netting and handling fish, a healthy return to the water is almost a guarantee.
Photo Courtesy of Bob Clouser.

Nets

Cotton landing nets are hard on the fish’s protective coating and easily tangle the fly in the mesh delaying its release.

The best modern nets have smooth, plastic white mesh that reduces flies tangling in them. Smooth plastic and rubberized netting has become common among manufacturers therefore price has gone down, while availability has risen.

Lip grips

For some years it has been popular to use a device that grips the fish’s lower lip so it can be lifted from the water.

These handle grips have hooks that are attached to a fish’s lower lip. Despite their convenience when handling sharp toothed fish, these tools can be destructive if used carelessly.

Tarpon, largemouth and smallmouth bass for example do not bite their prey; rather they open their mouth and suck it in. The gripping device can tear a hole in the lower jaw restricting the ability to suck in prey. Nerves can also be damaged, hindering a fish’s ability to feed and defend itself. This is similar to the standard bass angler pose of holding a fish vertically by their lower lip.

The best insurance when using a grip (or holding a fish with bare hands), is to always support the weight of the fish. Even though the grip is locked tightly onto a fishes jaw, the pressure will be much less if the other hand is used to support the fish’s weight (one hand under the belly).

Here the angler gently moves the fish in a figure-eight pattern in order to revive it.  ©Brandon Powers, Temple Fork Outfitters

Here the angler gently moves the fish (held by a lip grip) in a figure-eight pattern in order to revive it.
©Brandon Powers, Temple Fork Outfitters

These grips can also be effective in reviving a fish.

The best way to revive a fish with a grip is to pull the fish through the water in a figure-eight motion. This will allow a constant flow of oxygenated water across the gills, giving the fish the best shot at survival.

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About templeforkoutfitters
Armed with a lifetime passion for fishing, we set out to establish a new standard of value for fly and conventional rods. We have relied on our own experience and advice of many professionals in creating what we believe is the perfect marriage - price and performance. Sound too good to be true? Cast one and you be the judge.

3 Responses to Landing and Releasing Fish

  1. Great piece. Everybody should read it.

  2. Pingback: Getting the shot. | The Fishing Gene

  3. Armando says:

    So important to keep on talking about this, its a matter of keeping waters alive!

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