Fishermen often yearn to go fishing and “Rip Some Lips”, or “Go on a Slay ride”, or “Whackem and Stackem”. These terms are just metaphors. Please do not take them literally. You do not have to rip off a fish’s lips, Whackem, or Slay them.
The other day I netted over a dozen trout in the Madison River. Every brown and rainbow lacked lips or were scared on the mouth. The fish were still frisky but why no lips?
Fishes mouths are made of cartilage, the same material as your fingernails. There are no nerves in the cartilage. Barbed, dull hooks can be harder to remove. Here are some thoughts to help you care for the fish correctly.
Use your wet net to help you maintain control of the fish while releasing them. If the hook is stuck in the fish’s mouth, try using some forceps. Grab the bend of the hook and back the hook out. Always sharpen your hook. The hook will go into the cartilage and come out easier. Barbless hooks will help but a sharp hook is easier to remove.
If the hook is too deep or blood is an issue, cut the line and release the fish. The fish will dissolve the hook in just a few days. Their digestive juices and stomach acid are most effective.
Too many fishermen try to land a fish with no net. This usually results in a flopping and dropped fish. More damage will be done. They also like to grab the fly or hook and try to shake the fish off. This works but the lips often come off too.
With so much Catch and Release pressure on these fish, eventually they will not recover. None of the fish I caught were under 14 inches. Where are the smaller trout? These yearling fish attack flies’ more easily and end up being hooked deeply and are mishandled. This is often a mortal problem.
Fish are a renewable resource, but it takes time for a population to grow. Big fish take several years. Younger, smaller fish seem to get less respect and are often fatally released. Other fish are just wearing out and rarely grow large. At some point, we need to understand how much fishing pressure much is too much.
Be careful with your lip service!
For more Montana Grant, catch him gently at www.montanagrantfishing.com.