Release, Recycle, ReUse a Growler!

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DNR NEWS – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                       April 27, 2015

Resource recycling: It’s important in fishing, too
By Brad Parsons, DNR central region fisheries manager

Most anglers I know enjoy a cold beverage after a busy day on the water. And whether that beverage comes in plastic, glass or aluminum, they also know the importance of recycling the container to conserve resources.

But “resource recycling” is important while actually fishing, too. With catch-and-release increasingly common, anglers should know the right way to practice it so the fish can swim off and live to grow bigger and be caught another day. That’s especially important on lakes with special or experimental regulations where some fish have to be released.

Extensive research by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and others demonstrate conclusively that most fish will survive the catch-and-release experience if anglers focus on four key factors that affect mortality: water temperature, hooking location, depth, and time out of water.

When it comes to temperature, the warmer the water, the more stress on the fish and the higher the mortality. Fish are cold-blooded animals, but most people like to fish in the summer months.  While anglers can’t control the weather, they can be prepared. Set the hook quickly, reduce the amount of time it takes to land a fish, and handle it firmly but carefully. It’s also important to minimize the time out of water for the fish. Pictures are wonderful, but have the camera ready. Invest in some long needle-nose pliers for hook removal, and the ones with a bend at the end are even better. Cutting the line and leaving the hook is also a viable option.

Hooking location is also part of the equation. Fish hooked in the mouth almost always survive.  How do you increase the odds of that? Use active baits, such as crankbaits. Hook type also matters. Several studies have shown that circle hooks are better for hooking the mouth rather than the stomach or gills. Jigs are less likely to become deeply hooked than plain hooks. Barbless hooks or pinched barbs also can help, but where a fish gets hooked is far more important than the presence or absence of a barb, so set the hook quickly.

The DNR also encourages anglers to practice some restraint when the fish are really biting, especially during the summer or when fishing deep water. Scuba divers know that once you get below 33 feet, you have another full atmosphere of pressure on your body, so you have to re-surface slowly. Similarly, fish pulled up from deep water can experience stress and injury, so it’s important to avoid deep water if you plan on catch-and-release. The injury may be apparent, such as a distended swim bladder, but unseen internal injuries can and do happen as well. Remember to never “pop” a swim bladder, it is not only illegal in Minnesota, but often does more harm than good.

Here are a few more tips for successfully releasing fish:

Play fish quickly to minimize their exhaustion.
Wet your hands before touching a fish to prevent removal of their protective slime coat.
Rubberized nets help, too.
Unhook and release the fish while it is still in the water, if possible, and support its weight with both hands or with a net when removed from the water. Never lift them vertically
from the water.
Hold a fish firmly but gently. Don’t drop it. And don’t hold a fish by the eyes.
Do not place fish you plan to release on a stringer or in a live well.
Revive a fish by cradling it under the belly and gently moving it back and forth in the water until it swims away.
Do not release a fish that can be legally kept if it is bleeding heavily or can’t right itself.
No good angler wants to see a released fish die. In fact, an impetus for this article was the concerned members of our citizens’ Walleye Workshop. By following good catch-and-release techniques, anglers can recycle this valuable resource. This allows all of us to continue enjoying our sport – and it reduces impacts to the fishery, ensuring similar opportunities for others, now and in the future.

I think anyone could hoist a cold beverage (in a recyclable container) to that.

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