[ SKILLS ]
Catch and Release
To be good at catching fish these days you have to be good at letting fish go. Releasing fish
unharmed turns out to be a good way to share a limited resource, and depending on what
you hook, it also may be required by fishing regulations. Yet releasing fish successfully can
be tricky. There’s nothing more demoralizing than watching a released fish turn sideways and
Scientists have been studying release techniques since the 1950s, when the catch and
release ethic first took hold in this country. Over the years, every imaginable variable affecting
fish survival has been studied, including stress from air exposure, exhaustion, bait type and
size, hook type, water temperature and water depth (shallow-dwelling fish do better than
deep-caught fish, which are stressed by changes in water pressure), net design, net versus
no net, differences between species, size of fish (large survive better than small). Researchers
have looked at sub-lethal injuries, too, and their impact on growth and reproduction…the
list goes on.
What’s come from all these studies is both a good understanding of fish capture and release
techniques that work best for fish survival and the quantification of just how easy it is to harm a
fish. It appears that the average mortality rate for all released fish hovers at around 16 percent.
That’s too high.
Both Vermont Fish and Wildlife (Releasing Your Catch) and New Hampshire Fish and Game
(Tips for Releasing Fish) provide excellent guidelines for handling and releasing fish. You can
find these resources online. In the meantime, here are a few points to remember.
Avoid deep-hooking fish if you can by setting the hook quickly rather than passively allowing
a fish to swallow the bait. Circle hooks, rather than J-shaped hooks, can reduce deep hooking
when using live bait. And you can actively set a circle hook, even though this goes against
Smaller, single-hook lures beat those with treble hooks. The more hooks, the more likely there
will be eye and fin injuries or damage to the fish’s lips that may not be lethal but nonetheless
may affect growth and reproduction. On the topic of barbed hooks versus barbless, controversy
has raged for years, but common sense says go with barbless. (There’s no need to buy new
tackle – you can easily flatten barbs with a small pair of pliers.) If you deep hook a fish you intend
to release, consider cutting the line and leaving the hook in place. The hook will rust away within
a month or two.
Stress can kill fish quickly, and air exposure is a deadly stress factor. Keep air exposure
to a minimum. The highest standard is no exposure at all, but staying under one minute is a
good rule of thumb for bass and other warm-water fish; even less time (as fast as you can) is
recommended for cold water fish like trout that live in highly oxygenated environments.
Fish exhaustion is another contributor to stress and mortality, so don’t “play” a fish any
longer than necessary. Fish stand a better chance of survival if you bring them in and release
them quickly. Try to avoid fishing in places where either low water or warm summer water
temperatures are already stressing the population. Let those cold water fish be and hope they
survive the summer drought and heat. If you do find yourself with an exhausted fish, instead of
releasing it right away, hold it gently with both hands in the water, keeping it horizontal to the
water’s surface, until it can swim away on its own.
Get good at releasing fish. Fishing with someone who’s expert at releasing fish can be as
inspiring as watching the best fish stalker at her work. With a quick flick of the wrist, the caught
fish is free. An expert angler fishing with a fly rod and dry fly can push that 16 percent average
mortality rate down into the less-than- 5 percent zone. I’ve watched expert trout anglers fishing
with worms achieve the same level of success.
As for the fish you take home to release into the frying pan, developing skills in the kitchen
has its benefits, too.
[ APPS ]
Developer: The Hub at University of
What it can do: In this occasional series, we
profile mobile apps designed to help turn
your phone or tablet into an educational tool
– identifying tree leaves by taking a photo,
for example. This time we’re spotlighting an
app that can help force you to put the damn
device down already and just get outside.
Flipd was originally developed for educators
and is now required by some professors to
keep students from being hypnotized
by their tiny screens; it serves the same
function for anyone addicted to technology.
Users can “flip off” by instructing their
phone to shut down for a set amount of
time. Options include either a “casual
lock,” which allows for 10-second blocks
of checking on things like your texts or
Facebook feed, or a “full lock” that completely removes all third-party apps from
the screen for the set duration. Emergency
phone calls are allowed, but once started,
the app will keep you locked out, even if the
phone is shut down and restarted. Flipd also
keeps track of the amount of time you’ve
been disconnected from your device, logging
a running tally of how many more minutes
and hours you’ve had to be productive.
Cost: $0.99-$12.99, depending on length
How to Get it: Flipd is available on the
Apple App Store and on Google Play.