Last modified: Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Catch and release fishing

Information and techniques

  • Bait caught fish typically suffer a much higher hooking mortality than fish caught on flies and lures. At least one out of three fish caught with bait will die after release. Over 60 percent of deep hooked fish die. Cutting the line on deep hooked fish and not trying to remove the hook increases survival significantly. The major cause of hooking mortality is hooking injury itself. Most fish that are bleeding from being hooked will not survive.
  • Generally, nine out of 10 fish caught on flies or lures will survive after release. Studies have shown that there is only a one or two percent difference in the survival of fish caught on flies compared to those caught on lures.
  • When fishing deep water (deeper than 30 feet) most fish caught cannot be released with any assurance that they will survive. Bringing fish up quickly causes blood chemistry changes as well as an expansion of the air bladder to many times it's normal size, often causing it to protrude out of the fish's mouth. Keeping the fish in the water and quickly releasing it so it can get back down to deeper water helps some. Puncturing the swim bladder with a needle ("fizzing") does not improve survival. Some fish like lake trout can burp off the gases from the swim bladder when pulled up slowly. Most fish do not have this capability.
  • Fish that are already stressed by warm water temperatures or low dissolved oxygen conditions cannot handle the added stress of being caught and most likely will not survive after being released. Some of Utah's low to mid elevation reservoirs get warm during the summer. Some trout waters will have surface temperatures of 70–75° F. If you are catching fish in August when water temperatures are already marginal, don't plan on catching and releasing a lot of fish. Most released fish are probably not going to live to be caught another day.

How can you increase survival of fish you plan to release?

  • If you plan to release fish, fish with flies or lures. Bending down the barbs on your hooks will make the release even easier. Replacing treble hooks with single hooks also makes the release easier.
  • Land the fish as quickly as possible. This is less tiring for the fish.
  • If possible, keep the fish in the water and use a pair of forceps or needle nosed pliers to remove the hook.
  • Handle the fish as little as possible. This helps maintain the protective slime coating on the fish.

Tiger muskie release tips