Anyone that has touched a fish knows that they are slimy, slippery, and slick. Handling a fish is not an easy thing to do. Flips, flops, and drops are common outcomes. Sadly, these not only ruin the anglers’ pictures, they can be fatal to the fish.
The slime on a fish is a protective mucous that keeps bacteria and disease from infecting the fish. Once the scales, scratches, or mucous is removed or damaged, the fish is exposed to a variety of life-threatening illnesses.
If you plan on keeping the fish, net it, beach it, drag it ashore and clunk it in the head. Now that the fish is dead, take as many pictures as you want. Now put the fish into the cooler for a wonderful fish fry later. Feel free to hold, squeeze, drop, flip, or flop the fish after it is already dead.
How long can you hold your breath underwater? If you plan to release the fish, understand how to not injure it. A fish out of water can’t breathe. The longer you handle and pose with the fish, the less likely the fish will survive.
A squeeze can be deadly. Fish need an air bladder to stay upright under water. If this fragile bladder is damaged from being squeezed to tightly, the fish will no longer be able to swim.
Dirt and rocks scrape the mucous off the fish. Sand, dirt, grass, and debris wipe off the vital protective coatings. The fish will not die at that moment but will soon be affected from disease. Scrape off your skin and see what happens. Germs, and infection will soon follow.
Fish get excited when caught. This excitement causes the fish to secrete Lactic Acid into its muscles. This acid takes time to be absorbed and balanced. The fish may not eat due to this imbalance. This acid also changes the flavor of the fish.
Proper tools help protect the fish. Forceps are helpful when removing the hooks. If the hooks are too deep, cut the line. A fish will dissolve the hook in a few days. Plastic, wide web nets work well to capture a fish without wiping off the mucous. Cloth nets or nets with a closely knit fabric act like towels and remove mucous. A Proper net also allows you to keep the fish in the water until you are ready for a picture.
Cellphones are responsible for more dead fish than any other issue. The time it takes to use a cellphone for a video or picture has become more time consuming. Cameras were often used but not everyone carried one. Keep the fish in the water until you are ready, then be quick. Take pictures of you with the fish in the net instead of risking a drop, flop, or flip.
Resuscitate the fish. Move the fish back and forth to allow oxygenated water flow into the gills. The fish will swim away when it is ready.
There are more fishermen today than ever. Many of our Catch and Release fisheries are getting hammered. Fish can be repeatedly caught, if handled properly. Teach new fisherman how to handle fish safely, with the fish’s wellness in mind.
Fish for fun but take care of the fish!