It's caught! Now what?

Posted: Monday, April 05, 2004

The fish you catch deserve tender loving care, whether they are harvested or released. The following are tips for both scenarios.

You will improve the flavor and freshness of your catch by doing the following:

Stun fish with a blow to the back of the head. Avoid hitting the meat or letting the fish flop on the rocks.

Bleed fish immediately by cutting or pulling loose a gill arch. Fish that are feeding should be gutted as soon as possible.

Remove all viscera and blood from the body cavity, and wash fish thoroughly with clean water. Remove head or gills. Be sure to remove the kidney, that dark, gooey mass next to the spine.

Chill fish as soon as possible, surrounding each fish with ice and keeping it out of water.

Increase the odds of survival for the fish you release by doing the following:

Use tackle capable of landing fish quickly. Pinching the barbs down on your hooks will make release much easier on both you and the fish.

Bring the fish in as quickly as possible, to prevent lactic acid buildup in its muscle tissue.

Don't net a fish you are going to release unless necessary. If necessary, use a rubber net or one made with knotless mesh.

Keep the fish underwater. The longer it is out of the water, the greater chance it will die.

Handle fish gently and keep your hands away from the gills. Fish that are bleeding from the gills will almost certainly die.

Back the hook out with a hemostat or needle-nose pliers.

If the fish is deeply hooked, cut the line.

Any fish is too valuable to just toss in the water and hope it swims away. Cradle it with two hands, with one under its belly and one under and just ahead of the tail. Hold it facing upstream until it recovers and swims out of your hands.

In slow or still water, you might have to "walk" it for a while. A large or exhausted fish may take some time to recover. Stay with the fish until it swims out of your hands.

It's caught, now what?

The fish you catch deserve tender loving care, whether they are harvested or released. The following are tips for both scenarios.

You will improve the flavor and freshness of your catch by doing the following:

Stun fish with a blow to the back of the head. Avoid hitting the meat or letting the fish flop on the rocks.

Bleed fish immediately by cutting or pulling loose a gill arch. Fish that are feeding should be gutted as soon as possible.

Remove all viscera and blood from the body cavity, and wash fish thoroughly with clean water. Remove head or gills. Be sure to remove the kidney, that dark, gooey mass next to the spine.

Chill fish as soon as possible, surrounding each fish with ice and keeping it out of water.

Increase the odds of survival for the fish you release by doing the following:

Use tackle capable of landing fish quickly. Pinching the barbs down on your hooks will make release much easier on both you and the fish.

Bring the fish in as quickly as possible, to prevent lactic acid buildup in its muscle tissue.

Don't net a fish you are going to release unless necessary. If necessary, use a rubber net or one made with knotless mesh.

Keep the fish underwater. The longer it is out of the water, the greater chance it will die.

Handle fish gently and keep your hands away from the gills. Fish that are bleeding from the gills will almost certainly die.

Back the hook out with a hemostat or needle-nose pliers.

If the fish is deeply hooked, cut the line.

Any fish is too valuable to just toss in the water and hope it swims away. Cradle it with two hands, with one under its belly and one under and just ahead of the tail. Hold it facing upstream until it recovers and swims out of your hands.

In slow or still water, you might have to "walk" it for a while. A large or exhausted fish may take some time to recover. Stay with the fish until it swims out of your hands.



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