I was busy on Wednesday and couldn’t make the White Acres mid week match, by Sunday I was chomping at
It is vitally important to the future of our sport that all the fish we catch are returned to the water in as good condition as they were in before we caught them. Damage we cause them, even if it is accidental, will inevitably lead to the fish being weakened or even dying so it is our duty to ensure we treat them as well as we can to ensure they swim away healthily and continue to provide sport for years to come.
All fish are coated with a protective coating of slime and our first concern when we catch a fish is to ensure we don’t remove too
much of the fish’s protective barrier so never ever use a towel or cloth to pick up your catch. Whenever possible pick up your fish with wet hands and handle it for as short a time as possible before returning it to the water. Hold your fish firmly so that it doesn’t flap about and slip out of your hands but not too firmly or you may do damage to its internal organs.
Look to see where the fish is hooked. If you can see that the hook is in the fish’s lips then you can unhook it with your fingers or forceps if it is a big hook. Hold the fish firmly and with the hook shank gripped between your index finger and thumb push it out of the fish’s mouth in the opposite direction to the way it went in. With barbless hooks this will be a simple operation but with a barbed hook you may need to wiggle it side to side to loosen the hooks grip.
If you can’t see the hook then it will be hooked inside the mouth or deeper where you won’t be able to reach it with your fingers. You will need to use a disgorger – a thin plastic rod with a barrel type slot on the end to grip the hook. Hold the line tight and slide the disgorger along the line until you reach the hook (wrapping the line around the disgorger can help), gently push the disgorger and hook away from you to release the hook and carefully pull it out of the fish’s mouth, again this operation is much simpler with barbless hooks.
If you can’t get the hook out try and get help from a more experienced angler or cut the line as close to the hook as you can. Never try to drag the hook out of the fish by simply pulling on the line.
When targeting specimen fish always have an unhooking mat with you – a padded waterproof mat designed to prevent fish flapping about on rough surfaces while you are unhooking and weighing them. After you have netted your catch lift it out of the water in the landing net and lay it gently onto the soft (ideally wet) unhooking mat where you can safely unhook, weigh and photograph your prize without doing it any damage. If
you are planning to keep it out of the water to take photographs it is a good idea to get a bucket full of water so you can keep wetting it, not only will it keep the fish healthier it will make your pictures look better.
If you are going to use a keepnet make sure it is completely stretched out and doesn’t collapse on itself, staking it out if possible, and make sure the water is deep enough to cover the rings completely. Don’t keep fish in a keepnet for any longer than five or six hours, especially in warm weather when oxygen levels in the water are lower in shallow water, and always keep an eye on the fish. If they start to show any signs of distress return them immediately.
Never drop or throw fish back into the water. Get down to the water level and place them carefully back into the water so as not to cause them too much stress. With big fish hold them in the water, facing upstream on flowing water, until you feel them kick and want to swim away, this is especially important with barbel which can tire themselves out completely in the fight and have a tendency to float away belly up and die if you don’t allow them to recover properly.
When releasing fish from a keepnet ‘swim’ the fish to the mouth of the net in the water by gradually lifting the net a ring at a time from the bottom ring to the top. Once they are at the mouth of the net simply lower it into the water to let the fish swim free. If your net has handles inside reach in and lift the bottom two ring out before tipping them back carefully. What you must not do is bounce the fish along the inside of the net out of the water as this would increase the risk of removing the protective slime and loosening scales.