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Respect the Fish — Handling your catch with care

Fishing etiquette refers to unwritten rules and guidelines that anglers should follow to ensure a respectful and responsible fishing experience for themselves and others. Practicing good fishing etiquette enhances the sport’s enjoyment and helps protect fish populations and the environment. One of those practices is how you handle the fish. Holding a fish vertically, especially by its lower jaw, can be harmful to the fish and should generally be avoided, especially if you plan to release the fish back into the water. Here’s why:

  1. Stress and injury: Holding a fish vertically by its jaw can put a significant amount of stress on its jaw and internal organs. This can potentially cause injury to the fish, including dislocated jaws, damage to internal organs, or even death, particularly for smaller or more delicate species.
  2. Protective mucus: Many fish have a protective mucus layer on their skin that helps them resist infections and parasites. Handling a fish with dry hands or roughly can damage this mucus layer, leaving the fish more vulnerable to disease.
  3. Impact on the spine: Holding a fish vertically can also stress its spine, which can result in injury or deformities.

If you need to handle a fish, it’s best to do so with wet hands or wet gloves to minimize damage to the fish’s mucus layer. Additionally, it’s often better to support the fish horizontally with one hand under its belly and the other supporting the tail. This helps distribute the fish’s weight evenly and reduces the risk of injury. If you plan to release the fish, it’s important to handle it as gently and quickly as possible to minimize stress and increase its chances of survival after release.

In some cases, for larger fish, particularly when weighing or measuring is necessary, specialized tools like lip grips or fish grips can be used to handle the fish more safely without putting undue stress on its jaw. Always prioritize the well-being of the fish and practice responsible catch-and-release techniques to help preserve fish populations and their ecosystems.

If you catch a fish and plan to release it, handle it gently and avoid causing unnecessary harm. Wet your hands before touching the fish to protect its slime layer and use proper tools like dehookers to minimize injury. Treating the fish with respect is important as it has been tricked into being hooked for sport or dinner. Handling your catch with care also enhances catch-and-release mortality in case you don’t intend on taking that fish home.

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