Catch and Release Reminders-As travel plans have been interrupted for many this summer, a lot of people are looking at activities to do close to home. Fishing is a great way to get out in nature and you usually don’t have to travel too far to find fishable water. So as we settle into a bit of a different summer, it’s a good time for a refresher on safe catch and release practices.
Catch and release fishing has become increasingly popular, both as a voluntary practice used by anglers but also as a regulatory tool put in place by fisheries managers. Catch and release regulations (also known as zero bag limit) are put in place to help fish populations recover if they have been overharvested, or where populations are limited for another reason.
The survival of released fish depends a lot on angler behaviour, as simply releasing a captured fish does not guarantee its survival. Here are a few “best practices” to follow to help give released fish a better chance of survival so they can grow and reproduce and contribute to a sustainable recreational fishery:
- Follow the local regulations (be sure to check for seasonal closures and bait bans)
- Keep fish wet and avoid exposing them to air – air exposure is harmful to fish and increases the risk of post-release mortality (a net can be a big help here).
- Avoid fishing during periods of low flow or high water temperature – warmer water holds less oxygen than cold water and can increase stress on fish (optimal temperature for many trout species is around 15° C).
- or walleye and perch, consider depth – when captured in deep water (>7 m), their swim bladders cannot adapt quickly enough to the change in water pressure and their chance of survival is limited.
- Choose appropriately sized gear and avoid “playing” the fish too long – an exhausted fish will have a harder time recovering and surviving.
- Consider barbless hooks and artificial lures/flies (i.e. avoid bait which can be ingested more deeply making the hook harder to remove from the fish)
Regulations set what is legal in your jurisdiction but ultimately it is up to you, the angler to decide when and where to fish, for how long, for which species, and what else you can do to be a responsible angler. The above list is a good start but there are other resources available to help you. For more information, check out Keep em Wet or provincial resources such as those from Alberta and British Columbia for example.