Step-by-Step Guide to Releasing Fish the Right Way



Catch and release fishing helps maintain fish populations for future generations of anglers. Every angler will eventually practice catch and release fishing, whether it is voluntary, or completely accidental. Even though catch and release fishing is typically done to protect fish populations, problems can arise when done haphazardly, causing the fish to die after a few days.

Catch and release fishing is done when an angler unhooks a fish and quickly returns it to the water. Anglers that wish to take a snapshot of their catch need to do it quickly, since time is of the essence. Luckily, there are companies like American Fish Taxidermy who memorialize your best catch by creating museum-quality replicas!

Before returning to the water, it is important to take a few factors into consideration when deciding if your catch is a release candidate. Sixty percent of deep hooked fish will eventually die, since they are more susceptible to predators, disease, and impaired feeding. Improper handling will also effect survival rates. Find out how to catch and release the right way with our step-by-step guide.

  • Proper Handling

    Make sure to handle catch and release fish with wet hands or rubberized gloves. Handling fish with anything dry will harm the coat of the fish, making them more susceptible to infection. A fish’s coat also helps them glide through the water. Never use a towel or anything dry when handling catch and release fish.

  • Look for Lethargic Fish

    Fish that anglers struggle to catch could perish after being released if not properly revived. Hooking a fish is a stressful event, which causes extreme exhaustion and lactate levels to rise. Tired fish need oxygen as soon as possible, especially on hot days, so make sure to quickly get water flowing over the fish’s gills. Imagine holding your breath after a run! Putting fish back in the water head first forces water over the mouth and gills, as does towing the fish beside a slowly moving vessel until it swims freely on its own.

  • Choose the Right Hooks

    Treble hooks are not compatible with catch and release fishing, since they can cause a lot of damage to the fish. Treble hooks are commonly used with pre-hooked hard bait, so make sure to remove with split nose pliers and replace with circle hooks. Circle hooks are designed so the point is turned away from the shank, which will allow the fish to pass the hook if swallowed. This feature is ideal since you will have to cut the line if the fish has completely swallowed the hook. The hook will eventually rust away doing far less injury to the fish than if you attempted removal. If the circle hook is in the fish’s mouth, Circle hooks are also more likely to hook a fish from the side of their mouth, which can be easily removed with pliers. Make sure to leave the fish in water when removing hooks if possible.

  • Catch and release fishing is a great skill for anglers to learn. Not only will you help control fishing populations for future generations, you will let fish grow for a better catch.

    Fishmaster Pro Tip: If you take a photo of your catch and release fish, hold your breath while you do it. This will keep you from dallying and increase survival rates for fish!