Handling with care
Ensuring good catch and release practice
Much of the fishing in the Passport nowadays is “catch and release” (C&R) only. This is sometimes determined by byelaw (as in the case of Wye salmon) and sometimes by owners who set the non-statutory rules for their own fisheries. Voluntary C&R is much more widely practiced by today’s anglers too.
In general, good C&R practice is something that coarse anglers seem much better at, with carp anglers probably leading the way. Most anglers are aware of and practice good C&R these days. Those new to fishing or who would like a refresher, we have put together a short guide to help ensure all species of fish go back safely.
Forward planning is an important part of any fishing but especially successful C&R. You should always think about how you will land a fish (especially a big one!). If you're fishing alone, a net is helpful but ensure your mesh is C&R friendly - many traditional, large mesh nets can cause split fins and tails. Thought is then required as to whether you have space to net the fish and release it without taking it out of the water. If not, can you safely exit the river without damaging the fish? These things need to be considered before even casting the first line.
Fish should be played as quickly and as firmly as possible (without snapping the line!) so that they can be released before becoming too exhausted. This is especially important in the warmer months when the water contains less dissolved oxygen.
Landing and unhooking fish
Whenever possible, avoid lifting fish out of water. Always take care when handling, especially when unhooking the fish - be sure to wet your hands first in order not to damage their scales or remove protective slime. Pay attention to where and how tightly you are holding the fish when handling. Their internal organs, usually located just down from the gill plates are delicate and easily damaged by a hand in the wrong place or too strong a grip. An unhooking mat is useful for larger fish – nearly every carp angler will have one.
Barbless hooks are mandatory on many waters (for all coarse fishing), to make unhooking easier. Forceps should always be carried as they are a useful tool for removing hooks, especially with predatory fish as their teeth can be incredibly sharp! They are also essential if the fish is deep hooked.
If it's not possible to retrieve the hook without damaging the fish, the line should be cut as close to the hook as possible. It may also be necessary to cut the hook to retrieve it.
Understandably, many anglers want a photographic record of their more notable captures. Please always consider fish welfare first and foremost when taking photos. If you have a fishing companion, get them to help you take the photo. If you're on your own, please think about how you handle the fish before you get the photo.
Ideally, fish should be held only a few inches above the water and for no more than a few seconds before being returned.
All fish will need time to recover before being released. Once unhooked, they should be held gently in the flow of the water to help promote oxygen intake. Avoid releasing them into very fast or very slow water, as these can be too much for a stressed fish. Beware that they can sometimes swim off only to go belly-up a short time later, so only release a fish if you're confident it's recovered.
In warm water conditions (above 20°C) extra care needs to be taken. The water will contain less dissolved oxygen so anglers need to take more time to allow the fish to recover. Many halt fishing altogether in such conditions.