Catch and Release tips
by Chris Tan

"Catch and release" is a popular phrase nowadays. I recently saw a video of a sailfish being caught and clumsily pulled into the boat to be posed with. Subsequently it was "released", unceremoniously dumped/thrown into the water. Then the persons on video all turned to the camera and with thumbs up shouted - "catch and release!". Catch, yes they did; release, I think not.

It is more like "catch and discard"! When the word "release" is used it means release the fish alive and able to swim away. With most small fish this is not a problem as they are still alive and kicking! Or should I say alive and finning! When big fish are caught, the problem that is faced is exhaustion. To land the fish it must first be tired out before it can be brought to the boat or boat side under control. Therefore, to release the fish it must first be revived sufficiently to swim away.

If there is a current or the boat is moving, the fish can be held in the water, allowing the water current to flow through the mouth and gills, oxygenating the blood. The fish can be held with the lower jaw, the ideal situation as the mouth is kept open. Alternatively with fish that have teeth, hold the "tail" with one hand and support the belly with the other hand. Billfish can be held by the bill. If there is a lack of water flow available, the fish can be "resuscitated" by forwards and backwards movement, forcing water through the gills. Keep resuscitating the fish. It may take less than a minute to several minutes before the fish recovers sufficiently to swim off.

Needless to say, prior to releasing the fish, it should have been handled with care. Allowing it to thrash around will cause self inflicted injuries. Use a soft cloth to handle the fish. If possible, keep it in the water. Otherwise keep the time of the fish out of the water down to a minimum. Turning the fish upside down by carrying it on its back or holding it against the floor by its belly will help control a thrashing fish. Another method is to cover its eyes with a wet cloth.

At all times be aware of the dangerous portions of the fish. Sharp teeth, sharp spines and razor edged gill plates can inflict nasty wounds.

Do not be alarmed if blood is seen from injuries on the fish. Past research has shown that more often than not, the fish have been able to survive release with minor injuries. We human beings do not normally die from minor cuts; neither do fish.

Our natural resources are limited, therefore we should try to conserve and sustain them. The primary purpose of gamefishing is pleasure and enjoyment. Killing all the catch will only deprive ourselves and future generations of gamefishermen of this enjoyable pastime.