Sport Fish Restoration

Catch and Release of Freshwater Fish

Currently, many species of popular game fish have legally mandated size and catch limits, requiring angler to release undersized and over the limit fish.  Many anglers voluntarily release their fish.  If these fish are not released properly, their chance of survival is reduced. 

Whether anglers choose to release fish or are required to do so by law, all released fish should be handled carefully to give the fish the best chance for survival. 

Factors That Reduce A Fish’s Chances for Survival

Handling. Squeezing, rough handling, handling fish with dry hands, or allowing a fish to flop in the boat or on a solid surface can damage internal organs and remove protective scales and mucus.  The slime layer of mucus over the fish’s scales and skin helps reduce the risk of infection. 

Time Out of the Water. As long as a fish is out of the water, it cannot breathe or restore its chemical balance.  You should always minimize the time handled. 

Wounds. Anglers should minimize the damage caused by hook removal.  If a hook has been swallowed by your catch, cut the monofilament line as far into the fish’s mouth as possible and then release.  You can also use barbless hooks which will minimize damage. 

Exhaustion. A long fight on the line can cause detrimental stress to the fish.  Fish should be brought to the boat as quickly as possible and then released. 

Be Prepared. Have close at hand all the necessary tools such as a pair of needle-nose pliers, hook remover, ruler, and camera. 

For more information on catch and release visit