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Handling Fish After They're Caught

keeping them unharmed

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#1 RayburnGuy

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Posted 12 June 2012 - 08:08 PM

When I see people handling fish in a rough manner it upsets me quite a bit. I have no doubt that some people see the "pro's" hollering and screaming as they hold a fish by the lower lip while waving it around over their heads and they think this is acceptable behavior. I caught a fish a several years back that weighed over 8 lbs. While most of us would consider this to be trophy size it about broke my heart to see that she had a broken lower jaw and was skinny as a rail. If she had been able to feed efficiently that fish would have easily weighed well over 10 lbs. After seeing what bad shape she was in I put her in the live well which had been treated with Sure Life Please Release Me making sure the aerators were turned on. The water was plenty cool as it was in late spring and she was caught at night. Apparently the stress was too much for her in her weakened state and it wasn't long before she died. I'm not saying this was caused by a fisherman, but that it is a very real possibility when handling fish in the manner described above.

This has stuck in my mind for a quite a few years now and I have never come up with a good way of educating people about the proper way to handle and care for the fish they catch. And this is not the only example of improper fish handling as I'm sure most of you know. I'd like to get your thoughts and ideas about this subject. This thread is not meant to point fingers at anyone or criticize how different people approach this. The last thing I want to do is start a pi$$ing match. Would just like to hear what you guys think and maybe come up with some way of getting the word out to folks who don't know any better.

thanks guys,
Ben

Edited by RayburnGuy, 12 June 2012 - 08:10 PM.


#2 Braided Line

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Posted 13 June 2012 - 08:47 AM

RayBurnGuy:
Point well taken.
Not all fish for fun. Nor do they release/re-cycle the resource. That being only Bass for me. Living in Fl and with the great weather , I get to fish a lot more then some.. I keep nothing. It`s just catch and release, pure and simple. No matter the size and I`ve caught some biggins.
Handling fish before release, in a proper manner, is paramount. I`ve gone to using a boca gripe. Plus, it saves the fingers .....if you know what I mean.
No need to stress a fish further after them giving you a battle by jerking them around on the end of your hand just to "show" off your catch. Course ,them that don`t catch many may go that route due to being over excited. Nothing wrong with that but you would hope they soon understand the damage that could be caused doing that.
A good battle from what ever fish your after plus a carefull release ( holding the fish prior to hook removal) sure helps in that old saying..... he(the fish) gets to fight another day.
If more folks think about "being carefull" when holding their fish, then maybe the problem as you noted won`t be a problem down the road. Js/n.

Edited by Braided Line, 13 June 2012 - 08:55 AM.


#3 RayburnGuy

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Posted 13 June 2012 - 11:23 AM

LMB are the fish I prefer to chase as well Braided Line, but as you pointed out the same applies to all species of fish. One thing I don't think a lot of people realize is that not all fish have the genetic properties to become what we call trophy size. And even when they do the odds are still stacked against them ever living long enough to reach that size what with natural predation, falling water levels, loss of habitat, fishing pressure, etc.

I realize that some people take fish to eat and I have no problem with that although it makes me sick to my stomach when I see someone stick a fillet knife into a trophy sized fish. In my opinion there are way too many folks who do practice catch and release that still don't understand how much stress is put onto a fish by rough handling and such things as keeping them out of the water too long. And that's not even taking into account the energy expended during the battle.

I'm hoping more TU members will get involved in this thread. Maybe if enough of us started writing letters to the executives at B.A.S.S. and the F.L.W. we might see a change in the way some of the pro's care for the fish they catch and hopefully that will have an effect on how others care for their fish. And it's just not bass we're talking about. There are a lot of other tournament circuits out there that fish for other species as well. Catch and release started with the ideas of one man and look how big of a difference that made in the way we fish today.

Still looking for your thoughts and ideas guys. You don't have to fish for bass to get involved in this thread. The only requirement is that you care for your favorite game fish.

Ben

#4 Tree_Fish

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Posted 14 June 2012 - 05:47 PM

I agree 150% Ben! For me fishing is a way of life and it tears me up to see people mistreat fish. My grandfather taught me to fish at the ripe age of 4, and very time I see someone abusing any type of wild life I want to punch em in the face and yell "how will our kids and their kids ever get to enjoy this if we don't take care of what we have?!" People dont understand how long it takes a bass to reach trophy size and what they have to endure to get there. The only scenario in which I ever take a knife to a fish is when I have to do it to eat or it's recommended by TPWD. I had a conversation with a warden once and he explained to me that it actually helps the lake to take the small ones out, and this is why slot limits are put in place. Personally I still don't like to take em even when they are dinks but by doing so I am trying to help the lake I'm fishing. Any other time I'm strictly CPR. If there's anything I can do to help you with your mission let me know!

Edited by Mindhunter, 14 June 2012 - 05:49 PM.


#5 RayburnGuy

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Posted 14 June 2012 - 10:17 PM

Thanks Mindhunter. I was hoping this subject would draw more interest and would start more of a discussion, but so far it hasn't seemed to do so. Hopefully others will weigh in with their thoughts or ideas in the next few days.

Ben

#6 woodieb8

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Posted 15 June 2012 - 06:10 AM

i cant agrree more on mis-handled fish. i primarily fish muskies. as they are large they are delicate. verticle holds and photo ops are deadly. internal organs are stretched and some times torn. when you realize it can take 20 years to reach trophy size,why not protect them to be fought other days. even when we catch incedental bass we immediatly release them,,,,not toss them over the side. boca grips are a misleading destructive tool on muskies. most will hang the fish verticlly which is the worse thing. imagine seeing a 55 inch musky belly up because someone just dont care.

#7 Braided Line

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Posted 15 June 2012 - 09:20 AM

Woodie8

You guys that go after and catch Muskies use a sling of sorts or what ever it`s called. . That way the entire fish/weight is supported. Certainly the proper way to contain those big boys.
As far as the boca grip goes ,I was referring to using it on bass and bass only. As soon as bass get in the 55 inch range I`ll start using the sling, Come to think of it, the next time I catch a gator, maybe i`ll give the "sling" a try. LOL.
As you stated , the boca grip is not a tool of choice for you as your fish are a lot bigger and heavier.

#8 RayburnGuy

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Posted 15 June 2012 - 09:27 AM

Thanks for pointing that out Woodieb8. Not having fished for Musky the vertical hold thing is something I hadn't thought about. This is the sort of thing I had hoped this thread would bring to light.

#9 littleriver

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Posted 15 June 2012 - 08:13 PM

We fish at night this time of year . The biggest problem we have is many fish are caught deep and even more people have no idea on how deflate the air bladder on these fish. Many summer bass are lost due to ignorance. i see these fish floundering around the docks this time of year. I deflate them when i see them. Still pisses me off .......

#10 bassrecord

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Posted 16 June 2012 - 02:22 AM

This topic could go in many directions.
First I make a big distinction between wild and native fish vs. hatchery and introduced exotic species. I try to kill or give away hatchery and introduced species whenever I can and try to teach others to do so also. Hatchery fish taken from a put and take fishery make great gifts for widows whose deceased husbands were fishermen. Besides food, you give them memories.

Second I make a big distinction between cold water and warm water fisheries. It takes so much longer for cold water fish to grow really large, they must be protected with catch and release. But except on rare hot water days, cold water fish can be horsed in, played rougher, and released with less stress than native fish caught in warm water fisheries under similar conditions. It seems to me that warm water harbors a much greater growth of virus, germ, disease and other maladies in freshly caught fish that quickly result in death if we are not careful.

Third, as the non-fishing population continues to outpace growth of the fishing population, the matter of "catch and release" will become more and more trivial in the big picture. Non-fishers will want to dictate how we fish, when we fish, where we fish, what we do while fishing and what we should be doing instead of hurting and killing fish. If you live in a state where this is not evident, be thankful but get ready. My state just dinged me and threatened to fine me for not sending them my filled out cold water fishing card April 30. Someday they will require a warm water card, if they can make money on it!!! Big brother is watching me but I did not buy a cold water card LOL.

Good luck, now go fish!

#11 RayburnGuy

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Posted 16 June 2012 - 10:58 AM

Bassrecord what we're talking about is based more on the handling of trophy fish. And while fish do grow much faster in warm water climates not every fish has the genetics to become a trophy fish. No matter if it's in a cold water or warm water fishery. The genetic makeup of fish, in regard to size, can be compared to the genetics of pretty much any other animal on the planet. Including humans. Not every little boy is going to grow up and be able to run a four minute mile or be big enough to play linebacker for a professional football team.

As far as hatchery introduced fish most of the lakes that are producing giant largemouth have been stocked with Florida strain fish. The average bass fisherman has a better chance of catching a trophy largemouth thanks to the work of these hatcheries. I can't speak for other species of fish, but hatcheries have probably done more to better the sport of bass fishing than any other single thing. That is if you like catching huge largemouth.

I'm not so sure that catch and release will become irrelevant either. As the population grows there will only be more and more pressure put on the limited resources we have. If it comes down to having water to drink, or grow our food, what part of the equation do you think will suffer? It's real easy for an environmentalist to say they would never harm a living creature as long as they can turn on the tap and quench their thirst.

And as far as "big brother is watching" that's really a subject for another discussion as is your decision not to comply with the laws of your state to buy a cold water card.

Ben

#12 woodieb8

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Posted 17 June 2012 - 07:29 AM

we have bass tourneys up here. years back the after tourney releases were deplorable. the directors now release into the lakes not at the marinas where oxeygeon is less. stressed fish need help. many say theres millions of smallies, but human kind is bad with resopurces. .here on the big waters cradles are not well and can be dangerous. we release non trophy muskie boatside. larger fish are normally netted de-hooked and revived boatside. lactic acid is our killer. muskies just need a few moments. if you guys are smally chasers st clair will be your holy grail, c,mon up and get bass fingers guys.
bye the way GREAT THREAD

#13 RayburnGuy

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Posted 17 June 2012 - 11:09 AM

Tournaments are notorious when it comes to the survival rate of fish. Especially some of the local jackpot tournaments where they turn fish loose at the boat ramps from which the tournament was held. Not sure how everyone else feels about it, but it burns me up to be launching the boat and see dead fish laying everywhere.

Dead fish is why you will never see another B.A.S.S. tournament held at Falcon Lake here in Texas. When you consider the fact that the top three finishers of that tournament all weighed in more than 130 lbs. of fish in a four day tournament with bass that averaged over 6 1/2 lbs you would think that B.A.S.S. would want to make Falcon Lake a regular stop on their tournament trail. And they may have wanted just that. The problem was the folks at Zapata, Tx. didn't want them to come back due to the large number of huge fish that were killed because of improper handling. It's bad enough when you see a bunch of average sized fish killed this way, but when you start seeing so many trophy fish floating dead in the water it makes your blood boil.

Just stop and think how you would feel if you pulled up to your local boat ramp for a days fishing and as soon as you stepped out of the truck the stench of rotting flesh made you gag. You look out at the water and there are the dead, floating bodies of your favorite game fish everywhere. Not a pretty sight to say the least. And think how you would feel if you had been trying to catch one of those trophy sized fish all your life. Seeing a bunch of them floating belly up wouldn't do much for your confidence in your favorite lake either. Trophy sized fish are hard enough to come by without the needless killing of them by fishermen who don't know, or care, about the proper way to handle them once they're caught.

Ben

#14 Musky Glenn

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Posted 18 June 2012 - 02:46 PM

Great thread!!! I would agree with Woodieb8 completely. I might add that the biggest problem with handling muskies is time out of water. Leave them in the net, over the side of the boat in the water. Lean over the edge of the boat and do your unhooking while the musky is still in the water with its gills under water. Watch a video where they use a cradle and look at what a dangerous position the guy holding the cradle is in. Thanks for the super thread. Musky Glenn

#15 bassrecord

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Posted 24 June 2012 - 02:00 AM

RayburnGuy

When it comes to handling trophy fish roughly or easy vs. handling little fish roughly or easy, I don’t discriminate. I try to handle all sizes easy. But all people do not agree on what is the weight of a trophy fish. For Largemouth Bass IGFA has a 10 pound club and Texas’ Sharelunker is 13 pounds and other state groups have different weights. Personally I target Big Bass that are 5-6 pounds and up and do not discriminate on Northern strain, Florida strain or Smallmouth Bass and handle all fish carefully regardless of size.

Although I’m certainly not a genetics scientist, I can’t recall any fish related studies that show genetic fish growth limitations. Because of the way it has to be collected, there will always be outliers in the data. There are always little boys that grow up to play in the NFL or NBA, but they are rare. It’s possible that little or runt sized fish for their age could possibly grow up to be a trophy fish. I try to handle all sizes easy during catch and release.

Seems like biologists are wondering why Massachusetts’ LM Bass state record is over 13 pounds and Oregon’s record is over 12 pounds and both were Northern strain raised in cold water fisheries. I read somewhere where other states have over 10 pound LM bass records. Maybe they were intergrade hybrids. They don’t know why they got so big, but they did. Maybe “trophy” is in the mind of the beholder. I just want the opportunity for your sons, grandsons and mine to catch them - from the water - NOT electrical devices!

Good luck now go fish!
John

#16 RayburnGuy

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Posted 24 June 2012 - 02:15 PM

I thought about the size thing when first starting this thread John and decided not to try to define what a trophy fish was. Like you stated what is a trophy for one person might not be the same thing for another. And I never meant to leave the idea in anyone's mind that all fish shouldn't be handled carefully. Fish are a resource that can be depleted just like any other and we should do our best to protect them.

As far as genetics I'll have to stick with what has happened in so many places that have stocked the Florida strain bass. History pretty much speaks for itself on that issue as far as I'm concerned. There will always be anomalies in any tests done or records that are kept. But these are the exception. Not the rule. If I were going to stock a lake that I wanted to catch large fish out of I would definitely want it stocked with fish that had a record of growing to a larger average size. I believe there would be much better results than if it were stocked with fish taken from places such as local farm ponds.

As far as northern fish getting to be the size you stated I have no doubts that it's possible. But when you compare the numbers of northern strain fish that reach that size to the numbers of Florida strain bass that reach that size then you will see what I'm talking about. And the comparison I'm trying to make really has nothing to do with the longer growing season we have here in the south. We've had northern strain bass down here practically forever and not until biologists started selectively crossing them with the Florida strain did we start seeing the numbers of huge fish increasing.

But all of this is really getting off the main subject which is caring for the fish after they're caught.

Ben

#17 bluetickhound

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Posted 14 July 2012 - 08:43 PM

In addition to 'lip landing" fish and dangling them by their jaw for a photo (which is deplorable...) i can't tell you how many fish i have seen floating belly up with four fingerprints on one side of their bellies and a thumprint on the other from well intentioned fisherfolk (at least thats what i tell
myself to keep from getting too worked up...) who don't know to make sure their hands are wet before handling their catch!! Dry hands remove the protective slime and allow bacteria to gain entry and do their damage...

Ben, what's your take on gut-hooked fish? I have heard conflicting ideas on whether to remove the hook (by various methods... Some rather dubious at best...) or cut the line leaving the hook to rust out? My mind tells me a gut hooked fish is usually a goner regardless of what you do...

#18 RayburnGuy

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Posted 15 July 2012 - 01:06 AM

It depends on what your calling "gut hooked". If you can no longer see the hook then the best thing, in my opinion, is to just cut the line as close to the hook as possible and release it. If you've got some of the live well treatment that helps calm the fish as well as helps to replace their slime coat I would say put her in a well oxygenated and treated live well for 30 minutes or so. And then only when water temps aren't high such as in summers down here in the south.

If by "gut hooked" what you mean is the hook is down the throat of the fish, but still visible, here is something I've had great success with. Cut the line at least a foot above the hook and then feed the end of the line down through the gills being sure to pass it between the body and first gill. Once this is done apply pressure to the line until you see the shank of the hook turn in the direction of the line your pulling on. Then you use your fishing pliers, forceps, etc. to grab the bend of the hook and gently work the hook out. By turning the hook in her throat you've changed the direction the hook is trying to grab the fish. Instead of forcing it to only become lodged deeper it will come out fairly easy. When I first started doing this I held fish in my livewell for as much as an hour or more to see how it affected them. So far I've not lost a single fish when using this process. A couple of them were bleeding bad enough that I didn't have much hope for them only to be pleasantly surprised after treating them in the livewell with some Please Release Me added to the water. I read about this technique in an issue of Bassmaster magazine many years ago and it has served me well in keeping fish alive and it's something I think every serious bass fishermen should learn to do.

Ben

Edited by RayburnGuy, 15 July 2012 - 01:10 AM.


#19 Lure--Prof

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Posted 19 July 2012 - 12:30 AM

Amen to this thread Ben! Supposedly B.A.S.S eliminated landing nets to prevent injuries to bass caused by those old nets. Net design has come a long way since then however, first with rubber mesh nets, and soon after, rubber mesh nets which actually work well! Since the no-net rule, the landing alternatives that most bass bass pros use are far worse than injuries which can be inflicted by a modern bass landing net. Most often, in The Elite Series, the bass are hoisted into the boat by the rod and bounced on the boat floor; then allowed to flop around the carpet while the pro mugs and fist-pumps for the fans and camera, until he he deposits it into the livewell...and none of the other landing methods treat a fish as well as a proper net job can.

With proper use of a net, the fish does not have to be played excessively, and the bass requires minimal touching while being unhooked. This is also much safer for the angler, with today's ultra-sharp hooks. All the pros talk about conserving the resource, but talk is cheap; more of them should man-up and show more regard for the bass. Handle them with respect!

Dino

#20 RayburnGuy

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Posted 19 July 2012 - 02:22 AM

You couldn't have said it better Dino. When I see how the pro's do what your talking about it makes me want to introduce my boot to their posteriors. I've often wondered how Ike would like it if somebody grabbed him by the lip and shook him over their head.

Good point about the landing nets available today. They were designed to do two things better than the old nylon nets. That's to keep hooks from getting tangled in them (which only results in longer handling time and more stress on the fish) and to do a better job of protecting the fish.

When you land a trophy it has gone through what I would compare to running a marathon. It has done everything in it's power to escape and that means it's on the verge of complete physical exhaustion. People should ask themselves how they would like to have their head held underwater for several minutes after running 10 or 15 miles. That would essentially be the same thing a lot of people expect a fish to fully recover from. And more times than they care to admit it just ain't gonna happen.

Ben