How to Handle a Fish for Catch and Release and Harvesting
Properly handling fish that you’re going to harvest is more efficient and safer for the angler. For fish you intend to release, proper handling is critical for their health. And, says Capt. Eric Newman of Journey South Outfitters, properly handling fish is all about the right tools. Whether you intend to keep a fish or release it, having the right selection of gear aboard makes the task easier. Newman’s list of fish-handling tools:
1. Have Good Fishing Gloves
A pair of good fishing gloves help you keep a solid grip on a fish, controlling it and ensuring it doesn’t slide out of slimy hands to flop about on deck. The also help keep your fingers away and safe from spines and sharp gill plates. A good option is the AFTCO Release Gloves.
2. Using a Dehooking Tool
There are various configurations of these. Newman often uses the type that features a small hook at the end of 6- to 10-inch stainless tube. The hook is deployed in the out position by pulling a handle; once around the shank of a hook, it’s released to snap the back and hold the hook tightly so the angler can give a quick push downward to free the hook from the fish’s mouth.
3. Have Fishing Pliers
Pliers remain one of the best bets for removing stubbornly affixed hooks. Standard long-nose pliers can be excellent, but if you need to keep your hand farther from the mouth of “toothy critters,” as Newman notes, there are options such as Shimano’s Brutas Needle Nose Pliers, the 11-inch length of which keeps your hands out of harm’s way while working a hook out from inside a fish’s mouth.
4. Have a Fish gripper
An inexpensive plastic fish-gripper tool (e.g. Rapala’s Floating Fish Gripper) can be very useful to, for ex., stay away from a fish’s gill plates when handling it, or simply with less-experienced anglers who might need the extra help. It’s held open and one jaw clamped inside fish’s mouth to lock it down, “like a pair of plastic vise grips almost,” Newman says. Then you can use your other hand to support the fish’s belly for photos. It’s also useful for fish revival: With the gripper tool clamped in the fish’s mouth, “swim” it around for a bit by the boat until it kicks, then release the gripper.
5. How to Use a Boga-Grip fish gripper/scale
A Boga-Grip or similar metal fish gripper with built-in scale is excellent for weighing fish you’re harvesting. (Note: Bogas can be IGFA-certified, though fish must be weighed on land to be eligible for IGFA weight records.)
6. What is a Fish Sling
For larger fish you intend to release after weighing, incorporate a sling. Several manufacturers offer these. These allow weighing fish in horizontal position (then simply deducting the minimal weight of the sling from the total). Research has shown that hanging fish (especially large, elongate species such as redfish ) to weigh them can damage their spines and cause other problems, since fish are designed to live supported by a medium far denser than air. Put fish in sling and then use your Boga-Grip.
7. Measuring Fish to Get the Weight
If you don’t have a Boga-Grip or any kind of scale with you to weigh a fish you intend to release, here’s a trick Newman offers: Cut a piece of monofilament that you stretch from nose to tip of tail (its total length). Cut a second piece you run around the fish at the thickest point (its girth). When you get home, measure the pieces, then find any of the many web sites (e.g. IGFA) that offer weight approximations from length and girth for many species. Also apps available for your phone. Newman says this is surprisingly accurate – “Within 10% most of the time.”