Catching Fish- What Now?

     Fishing in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area or Quetico Provincial Park almost always involves catching a fish.  Whether or not it is the species you want or the size you desire is another story.  Regardless of the type of fish you catch you need to know what you are going to do with the fish once you catch it.

     It is next to impossible to bring fish back to civilization from the BWCA or Quetico.   Any fish you catch will either need to be cleaned to be eaten or returned to the water.  If you plan to enjoy a meal of fresh fish while out camping in the wilderness then plan accordingly.  Without ice or a refrigerator it is wise to clean your catch as soon as possible.  When fish are kept on a stringer or in a makeshift live well to be cleaned or eaten at a later time they usually end up becoming the meal of a hungry eagle, snapping turtle or other fish eating critter.   Clean your fish and when camping in the BWCA bury the fish remains away from camp and while in the Quetico return the remains to deep water.  Only keep what you can eat at the next meal or plan to carefully release the fish for others to catch.

     We encourage catch and release fishing not only because it helps to ensure the future stock of fish but also because often people’s eyes are bigger than their stomachs and fish tend to be wasted.  Keep in mind fish live in the water so it is very important to limit the time the fish is out of the water while releasing it.  Try to cause the least amount of harm when releasing the fish so it has a better chance at survival and reproduction. 

  1. Increase the rate of survival by not playing the fish too quickly, too slowly or excessively.  Retrieve the fish deliberately and you will help reduce the amount of stress and fatigue the fish experiences.
  2. The use of barbless hooks can aide in a quick release that does less damage to a fish.
  3. Gather tools that will facilitate in a clean and quick release.
  4. Keep the fish in the water while releasing it if at all possible.  Reach over the side of the watercraft and use a needle-nosed pliers to gently remove the hook from the fish white it remains in the water.
  5. If the fish has swallowed the hook then cut the line as close to the hook as possible.  Do not try to remove the hook from inside of the fish.
  6. If you must touch the fish then wet your hands first and do not put your fingers in the gill or hold the fish by its eyes. 
  7. Do not use a net or gloves because it can remove mucus and/or scales from the fish and that can result in infection.
  8. Handle the fish gently preventing it from battering itself on hard surfaces.
  9. Return the fish to the water headfirst pointing it straight down allowing the fish to plunge into the water.
  10. If a fish is exhausted and needs to be revived then hold the fish in their normal swimming position while supporting its belly, holding both the mouth and gills open.  Move them forward or hold them facing into a current to allow water to pass through their gills.  They should swim away under their own power.

     If all efforts to release a fish fail then consider it as part of your catch.  Otherwise give each fish the best fighting chance at survival so they may go on to live and reproduce for other generations. Follow these guidelines and let them go so they can grow or so they can spawn and make even more fish for others to enjoy.