Key Elements of Catch and Release
by Andy Klynstra

Fishing is becoming so popular that the demand often exceeds the capabilities of Alberta streams and lakes to produce adequate numbers of fish. Mortality must be kept low to in order to maintain and recover fish populations, the release of fish is an important tool to allow anglers to enjoy their sport, yet minimize the impact on fish populations. As an avid fly fisherman, and the father of two very enthusiastic teenage fisherman, I believe all fisherman should follow catch and release practices, to help relieve the angling pressures, and to ensure the success in this ever growing popular sport. All across Alberta, fish stocks have been managed by size limits and possession limits in order to help prevent the exhaustion of our fisheries. Without limits, our rivers and lakes would be not nearly as productive as they are today, and with the help of Alberta Fish and Wildlife Association, and the individual fishermen, together we can insure a bountiful stock for future generations to come.

There are a few simple rules to follow if you would like to be a successful Catch and Release fisherman, the number one rule is the use of barbless hooks. A single point barbless hook, although they make it easier for the fish to get away, they cause less damage and are easier to remove especially if the fish is hooked in a sensitive area as the eye, gills or deep in itís throat. To increase your chance of landing a fish using barbless hooks, they should be kept razor sharp at all times.

Play your fish quickly so that after you have landed it, the fish will have enough reserve energy to recover. The use of a good Catch and Release net will help to increase the chances the fish has to survive, and try to keep the fish in the water while you remove the hook. This will both minimize contact with the fish, and provide it with valuable oxygen that may have been depleted. If you must handle the fish, wet your hands first and try not to squeeze it, a good way to hold the fish is upside down as this will temporarily immobilize it. Never use your fingers to remove hooks always use forceps or pliers to gently remove hooks.

After the battle of getting your fish into your net and the stress of removing the hook, a fish may need some help to recover before it is released. When releasing a fish, try to release it in slow water with the head facing towards the current so that it can regain its strength and equilibrium, this will also help in forcing water through the gills helping to supply fresh oxygen. Never release an exhausted fish until the gills are working normally and the fish gains enough strength to swim away.

As an angler I always limit my catch, and if every angler would play a part in some level of Catch and Release, it would help to ensure a productive fishery for future generations to enjoy.

Andy Klynstra is the webmaster for Oil-Net.Com

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