Most anglers release most of the fish they catch, so it makes sense for all of us to know the best techniques for releasing hooked fish. These techniques are particularly important for stressed out fish caught in the warmer water of summer.
The Maine Professional Guides Association and Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife have produced a great series of five very brief catch-and-release videos (see information below).
The most important lessons I can offer, from experience, are to reel in the fish as quickly as possible and to keep the fish in the water as much as possible when working to release it. If you are taking a photo, make it a quick one!
Maine’s Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Department also has information on this topic, available on its website in the fishing section
I ignited a spirited online debate about the use of barbless hooks in June, after posting a column about the issue in my website news blog. I questioned the requirement that anglers use barbless hooks on the Rapid River – the only place that regulation is the law in Maine.
I’m a fairly well informed sportsman and I did not know about the barbless rule on the Rapid River – and I fish there too. So I asked John Boland about it. John was the long-time director of DIF&W’s fisheries division and is now in charge of both the fisheries and the wildlife divisions.
John told me that when his agency proposed to adopt a catch-and-release regulation to help the Rapid’s struggling wild brook trout population, local anglers also requested a barbless hook rule. So the department included it.
John says that research shows a slight 3 percent decrease in mortality for trout that are caught and released if barbless hooks are used instead of barbed hooks. When I reminded him that he established a goal of simplifying our fishing rules, and adopting a rule that applies only to a single water is going in the wrong direction, he agreed.
I also suggested that if barbless hooks could be justified on wild trout populations, DIF&W should have adopted that rule for all wild trout waters. John said the slight difference in mortality doesn’t justify a statewide barbless rule.
But I believe if you are planning to release most or all of the fish you catch, it makes sense to pinch down the barbs, or to use barbless hooks. They make it much easier to release fish and give them a better chance of surviving.
Many years ago Harry Vanderweide, my cohost on the TV show Wildfire, and I appeared in a video demonstrating catch-and-release methods. Two things still stand out in my memory of that project.
Andy Collar, Harry’s business partner in URSUS Productions, the company that produced our video, was in one boat on the Kennebec River, handling the camera. Harry and I were in my Dad’s beautiful Grandlaker, fishing and demonstrating the proper techniques for releasing our fish.
The problem was, the smallmouth bass fishing was fantastic, and we couldn’t stop fishing, taking too much time to shoot the video and getting far off the script, to the point that Andy expressed his frustration with us by putting down his camera, shouting at us, and jumping fully clothed into the river. That got our attention! And when he surfaced and got back in his boat, we promptly finished the video.
The other thing I remember is that we included a demonstration of how to remove a hook from your body. Lots of anglers hook themselves or their fishing partners. Barbed hooks are especially tough to remove (another reason to use barbless hooks).
There is a simple way to do it, by wrapping a string around the curve in the hook, bending the top of the hook completely forward, and pulling the string straight back. Harry refused to allow me to use his finger in our demonstration, so we used a hotdog!
I have since used this technique a number of times, successfully and without pain. It works!
So does catch-and-release fishing. Learn how to do it properly and practice it constantly, and we’ll continue to enjoy fine fishing in Maine.
Here’s the information from the Maine Professional Guides Association.
The Maine Professional Guides Association and the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife have teamed up to put together a series of videos of catch and release techniques. This project is in response to the fact that, over the past few years, the catch and release ethic has increased significantly in the angling community but the knowledge needed to successfully release a fish alive has not grown at the same rate.
These five videos, featuring Environmental Educator Emily MacCabe and ten year old fishing enthusiast Emily Douglas, are intended to teach anglers of all ages and experience levels the best fish handling practices for every step of a fishing trip.
“Gear and Tackle” provides a run-through of the basic gear that should be brought along on any fishing trip to ensure that fish are caught and released as simply as possible. “Setting the Hook” illustrates the basic rod movements needed to catch the hook firmly in the fish’s mouth and ensure that it stays on the line. “Playing and Landing a Fish” teaches how to successfully bring the fish on a line out of the lake and into a boat or onto the shore
“Catch and Release a Fish” shows how to safely and ethically handle and release a fish, including how to remove the hook, how to properly hold a fish and support its weight, and how to gently release the fish back into the water. “Keeping a Fish” demonstrates how to kill a fish, and outlines things to consider when deciding whether or not to keep a fish.
These videos will be shown at various public events and can be found online at the Maine Professional Guides Association’s YouTube channel
The Maine Professional Guides Association is grateful for the support of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and LL Bean for this effort.