An experienced angler, Pete Bowman stands on a boat, holding a walleye fish with 2 hands

How to hold a fish for a picture then safely release it

An experienced angler, Pete Bowman stands on a boat, holding a walleye fish with 2 hands

To ensure the safety of the fish and the best result in the release, everyone must understand that there are correct techniques for practicing catch and release:

  1. Whenever possible, use a rubberized net. These types of nets are a lot safer and kinder to your catch then nylon or string style mesh nets.
  2. Always try to net the fish headfirst.
  3. Once in the net, leave the fish and the net in the water for a minute or two to allow some time for the fish to calm down. This fish has probably fought a great fight to get loose from the hook, give it some time to calm before removing the hook from the fish or fish from the net.
  4. Keep the fish wet. Their natural habitat is in the water, so removing them for too long of a period can be deadly.  So whenever possible, remove the hook while the fish is still in the water, usually best done in the net.
  5. If you are removing the hook out of the water hold the fish upside down to keep it calm. But be careful to not keep the fish out of the water for very long. A good rule of thumb is to not keep the fish out of the water any longer than you could hold your breath underwater.
  6. Carefully remove the hook. If the hook is buried deep, cut it off and leave it in the fish. The fish’s life is worth more than that hook.
  7. If you must handle the fish out of the water, make sure your hands are wet. Fish are covered in a protective coat of slime and dry hands remove this slime which can injure the fish and make them more susceptible to infections. Never use mesh gloves or towels to hold the fish, just your wet hands.
  8. When you are raising the fish out of the water, immediately support the belly with one hand and whenever possible hold the fish horizontally.  Always keep in mind that holding a fish vertically, especially large trophy-sized fish, can cause internal injuries and although you may release the fish, the damage caused could mean a long and painful death for the fish.
  9. Always remember, you don’t squeeze the fish to get a better grip. You can damage their internal organs if you squeeze them too hard.
  10. Hold that beauty horizontally, take a quick picture and ever so gently release the fish back into the water, nose first and, as always, cradling their belly.   

A fly fisher holds a rainbow trout fish just above the water

Caring and respecting the fish you catch and release will keep our fishing industry healthy for generations to come. 

Last updated: October 12, 2023

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