Releasing a fish and watching it swim away unharmed is a wonderful feeling.
How to Handle Fish
To release a fish, keep it in the water if you can. Handle it carefully with a wet hand so it can be released unharmed. If it’s a fish without sharp teeth like a bass, hold its lower lip between your thumb and index finger. If it has sharp teeth like a walleye or northern pike, carefully hold it around the body. Never hold a fish by the eyes or gills if it is to be released.
Tearing a hook out can harm the fish. If the fish is hooked deeply and the hook can’t easily be removed, cut the line to release the fish. The hook will rust, dissolve, or become loose without harming the fish. The use of barbless hooks makes it easier to release fish.
If a fish loses consciousness, try to revive it by gently moving it in a figure-eight pattern so water moves through its gills. When the fish begins to struggle and can swim, let it go.
Keeping Our Fisheries Alive and Well
Today, some species of fish exist in limited numbers. More and more anglers know this and participate in “catch and release” fishing. Now, many anglers take only what they need for food and release the rest unharmed. This makes it possible for other anglers to enjoy catching them again.
Some fish take longer to become adults and may not spawn (lay their eggs) until they are three to seven years old. Then, they spawn only once a year. You should release many of these fish. They include bass, lake trout, muskellunge, northern pike, sturgeon, walleye, and most large game fish. Catching and then releasing these species is a good practice. Other fish species mature earlier and spawn more than once a year. For example, bluegill and many other panfish spawn when they are two to three years old.