Pictures of huge stringers of bass or of dripping saltwater fish nailed to boards at the dock are becoming a thing of the past. Too often, the fish in such pictures were not cooked and eaten, but thrown in the trash. More and more, anglers are realizing the joys of catch-and-release fishing, which involves returning the fish to the water to grow even larger and provide sport on another day.
A camera stored in a watertight bag and a tape for measuring the length of the fish provide ways to record the catch. Hooks can be made barbless by mashing the barb with needlenose pliers—a tool also helpful in getting a hook out of the fish with minimal damage to the mouth. Avoid treble hooks. A net will help support the fish while removing the hook. If the fish must be handled, savvy anglers wet their hands first to minimize damage to the fish’s protective slime coating and return the fish to the water as soon as possible.For a fish hooked in the gut or gill, cut the line and leave the hook. Some freshwater hooks are made of material that will dissolve away in time. A stressed fish can often be revived by holding it in the current or moving it slowly forward so that water is forced through the gills.
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