Catch-and-release angling ever crucial | SierraSun.com

Catch-and-release angling ever crucial

Bruce Ajari

More anglers are turning to catch-and-release angling as pressure on our resources continues to grow.

The reality is that there are only so many areas in which to fish, and the population in surrounding areas is exploding. Areas in close proximity to us, such as Sacramento, Roseville, Rocklin, Loomis and Lincoln, are expanding at an incredible rate. Consider the local growth here in the Lake Tahoe Region, Reno and other parts of Nevada and it is no wonder that we are seeing such an increase in angling pressure.

I happened to be at the Glenshire Bridge area Saturday morning and saw no less than 17 anglers. That does not count the anglers I did not see. That is amazing since I can remember a time that one could find solitude here on a Saturday morning.

With this increased pressure, the need for anglers to consider catch-and-release angling is extremely important. Even my uncle who used to be one of the biggest advocates of keeping everything that you caught has come to this realization.

Why? Because he has seen a decline in angling success in his lifetime due to liberal take policies. As he so aptly puts it, “If every angler kept a limit of fish each time that he or she caught one, we would not have a fishery left.”

While it has taken a long time for him to come to this realization, his take is probably very accurate.

Anglers should take care in releasing fish that are caught, particularly when the weather starts to get warm as it has been lately. The warm weather obviously warms the water, which stresses the fish. Add a struggle on the end of your line to this component and you have one very tired fish.

Anglers must take their time in reviving fish, particularly when the water warms because it does not hold the oxygen that cooler water does. It may take a long time to revive a fish in warm water and anglers should not release the fish until they can swim on their own. A good rule is to not release the fish until it can swim away from a firm grasp around the tail with the body supported lightly beneath the pectoral fins.

Supporting a fish so that it remains upright is important. Releasing it before it has been fully revived will mean that the fish will not be able to maintain its equilibrium and could die.

Many times I have seen anglers play a fish for a long time only to take the hook out and toss the fish back into the water. Chances are that a fish that is released in this way will not survive.

Here are some suggested tips in insuring a successful release:

1. Land the fish as soon as you can. Sometimes you will break a fish off or it will pull free using this tactic, but if you are practicing catch and release it should be of great concern.

2. As a general rule, the warmer the water, the quicker you must land the fish. Studies show that fish are more susceptible to dying when the water gets too warm to support high levels of oxygen.

3. Handle fish gently. A gently handled fish will not usually struggle an excessive amount. Never toss the fish back into the water. If you do this they will not have the ability to regain their equilibrium and they will most likely die. Never put your fingers into their gills or grasp them too tightly.

4. Make sure that your hands are wet prior to handling the fish. Handling a fish with dry hands can remove the protective mucous that helps the fish fight disease.

5. Try and keep the fish in the water if at all possible. Do not let it bang around on shore. The water will help support the weight of its body so that none of its internal organs are damaged. Also, you will be less likely to drop the fish on the ground or the boat.

6. Minimize the time for photos. Have them planned and set up prior to landing the fish. If you do this, you will be able to get a quick picture and begin reviving the fish immediately.

7. Cradle the fish gently in calm, silt-free water, preferably about waist deep. Gently support the fish from underneath, just behind the head, and grasp the base of the tail firmly with your other hand. You can gently move the fish back and forth in the water to get oxygen into its system. If you are in a river, facing the fish upstream into a very slight current will have the same affect. Do not let your fish go until it can forcefully escape from your firm grasp.

8. Take your time reviving a fish. You owe it to them. You may want to get back to the fishing, but remember the fish that you are holding in your hands could mean the future of the fishery. Spend the extra time and make sure that the fish has a chance to survive.

9. If the fish is hooked too deeply, cut the line off as close to the fish that you can. The hook will rust out shortly, and the fish will have a much better chance for survival than if you had worked to get it out.

Bruce Ajari is a Truckee resident and regular fishing columnist for the Sierra Sun and other area newspapers.