Modifying the types of hooks you use can significantly affect a fish’s chances for survival after it is released. When fishing with natural bait (dead or alive), IGFA strongly encourages the use of non-offset circle hooks. Extensive research on species from salmon to sailfish has demonstrated that circle hooks gut hook significantly fewer fish without sacrificing catch rates. Lures that have treble hooks should have the barbs bent down or removed to facilitate easier hook removal.
If you’re not going to photograph your fish or document it for record purposes, the best method is to not remove the fish from the water. In-water releases can be aided by the use of de-hooking devices that eliminate the need to boat the fish and keep hands safe distances away from the fish. If the fish has swallowed the hook, it is much better for the angler to cut the leader as close to the fish as possible, rather than trying to forcibly remove the hook.
If a fish needs to be removed from the water to remove the hook and/or document it for record purposes, anglers should use either their hands or knotless, rubberized landing net. Most small to moderately large sized fish can be landed by hand.
Ideally, this should be done with wet hands or soft, wet gloves to minimize slime and scale loss. Lip gripping devices may be used to help subdue fish.
However, they should not be used to hoist fish vertically out of the water, as this can cause damage to jaw muscle and bone as well as to internal organs. The best method for removing fish from the water is to grip the fish or the lower jaw and support the fish’s underside. Again, the point is always to hold fish horizontally and not vertically.
Interested in the science behind circle hooks? Read Circle hooks, ‘J’ hooks and drop-back time: a hook performance study of the south Florida recreational live-bait fishery for sailfish, Istiophorus platypterus published inFisheries Management and Ecology in 2007.
Blog post courtesy of Guy Harvey Outpost News.