How to catch and release fish properly

Well, if you read my last article, you now have an idea where to try fishing and hopefully you have been outdoors and casting a line. I was talking to Inland Fisheries staff and they have started the urban stocking program in and around Halifax and Dartmouth. As the roads have the weight restriction travel ban lifted, they will soon start stocking rural areas. Remember to keep checking for updates.

At this time of year, there is a very important fish migration that takes place and I want to bring it to your attention. The survival of the wild salmon population depends on salmon that came into the river in 2017 and the offspring (smolt) from salmon that deposited eggs in the river a few years ago are now migrating down the river and out into the ocean.

Most of these fish swim to Greenland, where they will stay for one or two years, and if they survive will return to the same river that they grew up in to continue the cycle. (Everyone likes coming back to Lunenburg County!)

I am telling you this because you have a role to play in this process. The brooks and rivers along the South Shore at one time had large returns of salmon but today those returns have almost diminished to nothing. So if you catch a smolt, parr or an adult salmon, it is your responsibility to make sure that the fish is returned back to the water in good shape so that it can survive to make that important journey.

There are differences between a smolt, a parr and a brook trout. Please learn the differences so that if you do catch a smolt or parr in the next few weeks, you will know the variations and be able to put the correct fish back in the water.

According to the Inland Fisheries: Catch and Release brochure, here is the proper procedure to release any fish back into the water:

1. Using artificial flies and lures increases the chances of survival. Live bait is often swallowed deeply which increases the risk of injury to the fish. Cut the line if a hook is swallowed deeply, the fish will work the hook out with time.

2. Using circle hooks or barbless hooks can reduce harm to released fish.

3. Do not play a fish until exhaustion. Use equipment heavy enough to play a fish rapidly.

4. Keep air exposure to a minimum. Avoid beaching a fish as this will remove the protective slime and can lead to infection later.

5. Do not lift the fish out of the water by the tail. This can damage the spine of the fish.

6. Avoid squeezing the fish between the pectoral (chest) fins, there is where the heart is situated.

7. Do not touch the gills and avoid placing fingers under the gill plate.

8. Take the time to revive the fish. Support the fish by placing a hand under the belly and keep the fish underwater. If in moving water, face the fish into the current while continuing to support it. Keep a relaxed grip on the tail and when it is ready, the fish will swim away.

Many of us practice catch release with the thought that a released fish will be a little more cautious and will grow to be a bigger fish to catch again someday!

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