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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Heres one for the xperts:

I see pictures everywhere; the internet, in fishing magazines, newspapers, news channels, wherever, of fish being held with one hand around the girth of the fish. Now I was raised thinking that if you squeezed a fish like that it would "pop" their "airsack" and they would eventually die?? It seems that these pictures I see of hands wrapped around the "girth" of the fish would possibly cause damage to this airsack if the fish were to wiggle at all or the grip was too tight?? But then again I see this method used everywhere so I was wondering if there is more to the method than I understand. And along the same lines I see pictures of the underside being used as a handle right behind the head of the fish while the other hand holds the tail?? I have also seen people try to handle them by the lower jaw (like it was a bass or crappie or something??)

DISCLAIMER: I was just wondering if their is some science or method that the xperts use so that this doesnt harm the fish?? :dunno :dunno :dunno I am not pointing fingers, or saying this is bad, or saying it is good, but rather asking for my own knowledge. I myself have been working on handling them as little as possible, if at all....but sometimes I need that pic ;)

Thanks

~Patrick ><>
 

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Slainte
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Over the years I have come to understand the following.

1. Wet your hand prior to grabbing the fish.
2. Once in hand, turn the fish upside down, it stops them from thrashing.
3. Try to hold firmly but don't squeeze 'em.
4. Keep them in the water as much as possible.
5. For photos, grasp around the tail and cradle their belly, pop 'em up, snap, put 'em back. Don't just drop them back in, hold them till they revive and take off on their own.

That's all I know, and it seems to be good in practice.

Roper,

Good things come to those who wade...:professor
 
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Patrick,
Most of the fish handling I see both on TV and in real life is rather barbaric. Catch and release should be very gentle with as little stress on the fish as possible . Pulling a fish out of the water and waving it around while a buddy tries to figure out how to use a camera he has never seen before is quickly reducing the fish's chance of survival. If you must have that picture plan it with the fish's survival in mind. Keep the fish in the water while the photographer gets set up. Then cradle the fish with both hands placed lengthwise along the body to support as much of the weight as evenly as possible. At the last second lift the fish for the camera, give'em that famous smile and get the fish immediately back in the water. Finally, imagine if the fish caught you instead and reeled you INTO the water and held you there while he fumbled around with a camera! Hmmmmm.......I wonder what kind of bait the fish would use for that....pizza, beef jerky, twinkies, Reece's peanut butter cups, maybe some M&Ms on a big scud hook! I would probably fall for a big Porterhouse steak broiled over an open fire accompanied by a real baked potato with sour cream and chives........ Ive
 

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As a former fisheries biologist (Please don't send me any hate e-mails - I said FORMER)here's my 02.

First of all trout and all salmonids have what are called physostomous (sp? - its been a while) swim bladders while rockfish, bass, perch, crappies have what are called physoclistous swim bladders.

Translated this means that trout and salmon have open-ended swim bladders and must fill them by gulping air (hence you often wonder why salmon are leaping for no apparent reason - it may be to remove parasites OR it may also be to fill their swim bladders). In all likelihood pressure on a trout or salmon's mid-section could damage internal organs but it won't "pop" their swim bladders. The air would just be forced out of the open end.

Saltwater rockfish and freshwater bass (and their relatives) however have closed swim bladders. To fill them or empty them they utilize osmosis which is a much slower process but allows them to dive much deeper. If you've ever caught rockfish in deep water you've seen what happens when you depressurize them before their swim bladders can catch up...it's not pretty. In this case you could see where it might be possible to "pop" their swim bladder but it still would probably take more than a grip around their mid section to do it since the bladders can expand quite a bit.

Hope this answers your question or did I miss the gist of it?:professor
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
That was packed full of info....one question if I may though? So if you hear the air bladder release air when you handle the trout species, it does not harm them? One instance I remember was back when I was really young and I caught a trout and when I squeezed him I heard the air release...I then put him back in the water and he floated upside down and I dont think he survived :dunno . I remembered my dad saying it was because we had held him too tight and we poped his bladder??? So I have always thought that was the case??

~Patrick ><>
 
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Great question.

First off, I agree that much of the C&R fish handling you see both on the river and in pictures is barbaric. The fish should not be taken from the water at all but if you want a picture, and lets face it, most of us do from time to time, keep it to a minimum. Bob Arnold talks about a fish being able to hold his breath out of water about as long as you can under it. I think Bob is too generous as it should be about as long as you can underwater after having run a 440 wind sprint.

As for the hold, with steelhead anyway, it is far better to grip them super lightly than to squeeze. It is not that you will hurt them as much as the pressure gets them agitated. If you just support the fish in your hand with no side pressure, more often than not they will just sit there contently. Especially good to use when supporting them underwater as they recover. Also remember to face them upstream so the water is flowing over there gills.

sinktip
 

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I was reading a study about this a while ago, can't remember where, but they found that if you did not wet your hand before you grab the fish, his chances of survival are actually better. The reason, when your hand is wet and the fish is slimy, you have to squeeze harder to keep it from escaping. If your hand is not wet you don't have to squeeze near as hard, reducing the chance of causing damage and increasing survival rates.:professor
 

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Be the guide...
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WW, you may have a good point, but I think the main point that others are making is that you should try not to be in a situation where you NEED to squeeze the fish. For example, if you are able to 'tail' the fish, a wet hand is usually fine and there is little damage a firm grip will do. It's what you do with the second hand that is usually of concern. You need to be ready for the fish to squirm. If it does, I just dip it back in the water and hold the tail firmly until it stops. I would not try to squeeze it and try to 'contol' it that way if possible. And many times I let the fish go if I think they may do themselves damage by thrashing (and lose the photo opp). The second hand should just be used to raise and lower the fish by the belly. I think this is more of an issue with bigger fish. I think the mistake a lot of folks make is that they try to hold the fish over their boat or over rock\sand and when the big or little fish starts wiggling, they are in a position to either drop it, or squeeze it - and it usually ends up both.
 

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I take some pictures of my fish. I keep them in the net, take them to the shore, lay them on the ground next to my fly rod and snap a picture or two.

I know for a fact that this doesn't hurt them becuase I have caught the same Brown trout twice this year. How do I know this? He has a tumor of some sort on one side just behind the gill plate on the body near the front fin and he is just under 20 inches. The catches were a week or so apart, sooooooooo, apparently he wasn't harmed and still hungry.

I think the most important part is making sure the fish is revived (moving him back and forth forcing water over is gills) properly before letting him swim away under his own power.
 

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Arlington, I tend to agree that some folks take this too far and that fish can be hardier than we think. Catching strong fighting silvers with huge (mostly healed) seal bites out of their backs for example, and many other examples could be found.

But from your post I'm wondering if you take your 1 case study and assume that it applies to all fish species and sizes? Under the same water temp and other conditions? The same duration of fight (or level of fish exhaustion)?

Do we just start promoting the 'treat the fish anyway you want' attitude? What is the line of OK handling and not OK handling? I think most of us out in the real world apply some common sense and general knowledge and experiece as to how we handle a fish we just caught. But too many people out there really have no clue what they are doing and often do damage\kill fish - mostly unintentionally. It is for the sake of these people that we hope to educate folks. It's about promoting a healthy respect for the fish, the environment, and the sport of fishing in my opinion.
 

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Well this is the only fish I could id for certain. I fish with a four weight rod and 3# tippet so I tend to have to play the fish out.

I always take my time reviving the fish and letting him swim away on his own. Supporting the fish and letting him swim away on his own, I think, is very important.

I have seen people hook fish, them after a long fight, and even though they didn't take pictures, threw them dircetly back into the water and the fish sank to the bottom. I don't think this fish swam away after sinking to the bottom.

They need revived and rested even if they never come out of the water, before being released.
 

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If you are holding a fish tight enough to force air out of its swim bladder, it's going to die. Period. This isn't due to "popping" the swim bladder though, it's due to squeezing the heck out of the rest of its internal organs. It might die right after you "release" it or it may happen up to a day or so later depending on what was damaged. :-( Bottom line = the less handling the better for the fish.
 
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Chadk,

Very well said! You beat me to the N of 1 sampling argument. Most fish are hardier than we think. This is especially true of steelhead and also salmon in salt water. One study out of Idaho in the late 70s showed remarkable survival for Clearwater River steelhead. I too have marvelled at the healed seal marks.

As for trout, hooking mortality can be quite high even with well intentioned angling and release. There are things that minimize this though and I would through education, responsible anglers would adopt them.

sinktip
 

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Good point. Size does matter;) Small fish and larger fish seem to survive handling better.

Large fish appear to do better because when we photograph them we generally support them with two hands. One hand under the pectoral fin area and one under the tail/anal fin area. This is a whole lot better than the one hand in the middle of the fish approach that generally gets used when taking pictures of your standard 12 - 16" fish or lifting it out of the water. Smaller fish fare well because we can usually support the entire fish when we lift it. Hooking mortality is generally a bigger problem for smaller fish than handling.
 

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Stop Killing Wild Steelhead!
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Patrick, This is a very strong topic. From my own experience I know that over the years I have killed fish accidentally by handling them roughly. And I have seen many others do this as well. On some of the legendary catch and release waters in America there is such a thing as too much catch and release, and fish die there because of the stresses involved. Often handling is a part of the problem.

The sometimes angler comes to a remote place with a guide. Maybe he hooks the fish of his life. After the guide gets the fish in hand the angler wants his own picture taken, holding the fish. After a few minutes of grappling the fish swims away with dents in his flanks from the grip pressure.And there's the often angler too, who has his favorite haunts and does well there, even catching the same fish over and over agian.How many times was that fish caugth by others as well? How much handling can that fish take? We don't know until it dies.

I have grown to feel that the least handling possible is ideal. If you can get the fish calmly to hand in the shallows, and gently slip the barbless hook, without touching the fish unnecessarily- that's the perfect scenario. You can still picture a fish lying in the water. Some very intrigueing and beautiful pictures have been shot this way.

No handling is the best handling. The hero shots; fish hoisted in the air, angler boldly beaming, are not a good thing in my opinion.

It is a hard habit to break. But if catch and release is to have any long standing credibility, we need to consider this seriously. In the not so long ago birth of the catch and release culture, it was really considered a rare thing for a person to do that, release a fish unharmed. Now it is very commonplace. So this is a new problem; "too much catch and release". Maybe if we eliminated the handling-the-fish part of catch and release the mortality numbers would fall.
 

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I would also agree that the majority of fish handling one sees both on print and on the water is pretty pathetic. I've personally seen some pretty ugly stuff. Once I watched a fly fisherman across the river from me c&r about 5 bright silvers and with everyone, he would lift it up by the gills while taking the hook out and even dropped a few on the rocks while doing this. Needless to say I ended up watching most of them float right down the river. Another time I watched a guy fly fishing from a boat release about 7 dead sea run cutts because he took every one out of the water into the boat, and then waited a minute or so for his buddy to snap a photo. I think the worst though is on TV fishing shows. They will hold a fish out of the water for a minute while they talk about it, and most of the viewers assume that it's ok since the guy is some sort of pro fisherman. Some of those guys c&r skills are about on par with Mike Tyson's anger managment skills.

Seems like most everyone here has the right idea though. That is that fish handling should be kept at a minimum. The objective of catch and release is to relaese the fish in the best condition possible. This is something that is usually overlooked when somone wants to look at the fish they put so much effort into catching. Mabey if we fishermen would quit lying so much we wouldn't need a photo for people to believe us.

Something I have been working on making for c&r fishing is a cradle net. When fish are cradled they don't move around much which makes hook removal easier, plus their entire body is evenly supported. Unlike a traditional net, they are allowed to lay flat and can be released by just putting the net in the water. I see if I can find a link to one. Seems like cabelas used to sell them.
 

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I told myself to keep quiet and observe! New to this forum and all. But this is too delicious to pass on.

Releasing a fish starts a long time before it is caught! For know I am going to assume that all fish that are in good shape will be released. Your gear is really important. A fish should never be worked, played, to the point that it ends up lying on its side nearly expired. In this condition its chances are greatly reduced. your gear should be heavy enough to control the fish. This is my pet peave with 4 wt. rods on decent fish. Yes it is fun to play them out but are they too played out. A person must remember that the fishes environment is very predatory.

The best way to release a fish is to get it to you and then give it all the slack that is reasonable and let it un hook itself. If you have set the hook quickly then this should be no problem. If this doesn't work then most likely the fish is hooked under the tongue or the gullet. If there is any blood showing take it home and eat it. Otherwise remove the hook with forceps while the fish is in a wet net or in the water.

The dues to learn to fly fish are heavy. Once we learn How to catch a fish then we all tend to over do. The great mythical catch and release phenomena. If one catches 50 fish and releases all at least 10 are going to die as a result of the experience as a rule of thumb.

If the hook is not in the jaw or lip the chancees of survival go down hill like a round rock. If there is blood showing, the fish is dead so creel it and enjoy.

I know this isn't a popular perspective but that is how it is.

The other half of c&r is to recognize when the likely hood of terminal trama has occurred and the fish should be put in the bag and counted as part of the limit. Way too many fishers over look this aspect.

wet line
:beer2
 

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I agree with Wet Line but allow me to carry on for a few sentences. I never touch a fish. I play them as quickly as I can without breaking my line. This is a ton of fun because the fish win about half of the time. When they get close enough, I quickly grab the hook with my forceps, clamp them shut, and start jiggling the forceps. They always get released. They always bolt off into the blue. I chuckle and resume fishing. I never release more than 10.. After that, I quit. But if I think the lake is overcrowded with fish, I just keep fishing until my arm howls at me.
I hate photos of fish who are obviously dead (they are not looking down and have that glassy- eyed stare) being shown with the picture supposed to demonstrate that the fish will be released. A big fat lie.
Also, being somewhat of a jerk, I don't like magazines showing off dead fish. Not a good example.
Steelhead and salmon should be revived because they are so hard to get to hand quickly enough. My personal limit for these fish is five which should probably be reduced to three.
"Fishing the West" is the worst example I have ever seen of a TV show. Some times they have a fish out of the water for more than five minutes. Just because a fish swims off does not mean he will survive.
Also, Larry (the main man) talks to his companion while playing the fish, seldom looking at his line. Come on! Are you bored? Are you showing off? Or are you just a buttho?
These are just my personal opinions and may not work for you. Regardless, best of luck in a very noble and important thing (C&R) to do.
 
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Wow..... I'm assuming everybody here is concerned with the welfare of our quarry, especially where wild fish are concerned.

As far as fighting/landing - as quickly as possible (even quicker in warmer/colder than average water conditions). The longer we fight a fish, the more lactic acid build-up they experience, and after a certain point, they will not be able to recover. They will die.

As far as handling the fish - all fish have a protective film on their skin. When they lose this, they are at very high risk for disease and subsequent premature exit from this world. For this reason, I do not use a net. Furthermore, their organs are delicate, and too much squeeze can injure those delicate necessities, which can lead to, again, premature exit (that's death). I like Bob's idea of not even touching the fish and keeping them in the water. If you gotta handle the guys, the wet hand helps maintain that protective film, and if you get them upside down immediately, they will 99.9 % of the time lay docile for you to back out the barbless hook. Remember too that gravity pulls like a Mo-Fo on their insides once out of water, so in-the-water is the best place for the fish to be.

I personally feel there is nothing wrong with taking a little extra time and a whole lot of extra care when handling fish to ensure they will survive to fight another day - and, better yet, grace us with their progeny.

My little contribution to the fine volumes here...

:smokin
 
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