In today’s fishing world, the majority of fish caught from freshwater impoundments are released to swim and fight another day. Catch and release, like recycling, is a good thing and helps to preserve the fishery.
To assure that the fish you land has the best chance of survival, certain steps should be followed.
Barbless and circle hooks are preferred by anglers who practice catch and release. Sportsmen who target mountain trout, bonefish and marlin have used them for decades. In addition, artificial lures with single hooks are less harmful to the fish than are trebles.
When a bite occurs, set the hook quickly to avoid the chance of gut-hooking. This mishap is also less likely to happen if you hold the fishing rod in hand rather than leaving it in a rod holder. To reduce the chance of stressing and exhausting your quarry, bring it to the boat as quickly as possible. For best results, use tackle and line that’s adequate enough to retrieve the fish within a reasonable period of time.
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It’s best to land a fish by hand, but should it need to be netted, use a rubber or mesh net, not one made with knotted twine: Abrasive nets can damage the fins, cut the skin and rub away the protective slime coating of fish. Once landed, do not allow the catch to flip-flop on the deck or ground.
Fast and careful hook removal is a big key to survival. Fish should be kept out of the water no longer than you can hold your breath. If possible, it’s best to remove the hook while the fish is still in the water.
Since that isn’t practical most of the time, hold the fish tightly around the head and remove the hook by hand or by using needle nose pliers.
Once the fish is ready to be released, place it in the water facing upstream and move it back and forth until it gains composure and begins to struggle. Then, allow it to swim away.
Fish taken from deep water during summer months, and those that bleed profusely, tend to die shortly after being released. Consider keeping them for a meal if they meet local size and creel requirements.
Handling your catch is as much about protecting yourself as it is the fish. Gloves are recommended to avoid cuts and sharp stab wounds from fins or gills. Fish with teeth should be held securely around the head and care should be taken to keep your fingers away from the mouth.
Free fishing seminar: “How to Use Sonar, Down/Side Scan and GPS to Catch Summer Bass, White Perch and Crappie” is a 90-minute seminar Jake Bussolini and I will conduct 6:30 p.m. July 15 at Gander Mountain, Exit 36, Mooresville. For information, call 704-658-0822.
Tips from Capt Gus
If it smells, use it for catfish bait. Catfish eat almost anything, including shrimp, pizza crust, grapes and leftover table scraps. Don’t be afraid to experiment. You might even catch a big one on a candy gummy worm.
Hot spots of the week
Lots of white perch are in water to 40 feet. Best baits are Sabiki rigs fished along drop-offs and in mid areas of sloughs and coves. Cat fishing is very good for those using live bream, fresh cut baits or chicken parts laced with garlic seasoning. Spotted bass are chasing baitfish to the surface in boat basins and coves (early and late) and off shallow points throughout the day when the surface is calm.
Surface water temperature varies by location, but is mainly in the 80s in waters not affected by power generation. The water level is about 3.5 feet below full pond on Lake Norman and about 3.2 feet below on Mountain Island Lake.
Gus Gustafson is a freelance writer and a professional fishing guide on Lake Norman. Have a story idea for Gus? Email him at Gus@lakenorman.com.