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Handling Your Catch


Proper handling protects both you and the fish.

Release fish that you don't intend to keep or fish that are smaller than the legal length immediately and gently. If you must take a quick picture of a fish, remember the longer the fish remains out of the water, the less its chances of surviving. Minimize the time fish is out of the water (no longer than you can hold your breath).


Leave fish in the water if you can and use a tool to remove the hook. If you cannot, smaller fish less than 5 pounds can be vertically held by the lower jaw, either by hand or with grippers. Hold larger fish horizontally and support with two hands to avoid damaging the muscles, vertebrae or internal organs, wetting your hands first. This helps to preserve the protective slime on the body of the fish. Failure to wet your hands may result in removing the slime resulting in the fish becoming infected with a fungus or other disease after release. If you cannot use your hands, use a wet rag or glove. Never put your fingers in the gills or eye sockets. Turn fish on its back and cover its eyes to calm it.  A fish dropped on the ground or in a boat has a poor chance for recovery.


If possible, keep the fish from thrashing without using a net. If a net is required, use a knotless or rubber-mesh landing net instead of abrasive nylon.