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Give Fish a Fighting Chance

There are lots of things you can do to give the fish you release a fighting chance. Some you might be doing and not even know it. If you catch a fish that you do not intend to keep or that cannot be harvested, follow these steps below to increase the chances the fish you release will survive.

Practice these proper fish handling techniques to help released fish survive!

  • Handle fish as little as possible and get them back in the water quickly.
  • Keep fingers out of eyes and gills.
  • Support fish horizontally using wet hands.
  • Never use towels to handle fish, which will remove a fish’s protective slime layer.
  • Use non-stainless-steel, non-offset, barbless circle hooks when using natural bait.
  • Use barbless hooks since they are easier and faster to remove than barbed hooks.
  • Use a pair of pliers or small hand crimper to flatten a circle hook’s barb; for larger hooks, a bench crimper can be used.
  • Use a dehooking tool to remove hooks.
  • Use a knotless, rubber-coated net and only gaff fish you intend to keep.
  • Do not remove large fish or prohibited species from the water.
  • Match your tackle to your targeted fish; using light tackle when catching large fish can cause them to become exhausted and decrease their chance of survival upon release.
  • Teach others about these proper fish handling techniques and learn more at myfwc.com/FishHandling.

Tips for Taking Photos of Fish

  • Capturing a catch on camera is a great way to share your experience with others and to create lasting memorabilia.
  • It is okay to take a photo of a fish that cannot be kept while it’s in the process of being released, but it still must be let go immediately after. A fish should not be held out of the water for long periods of time just for the purpose of taking a photo.
  • Whenever possible, take pictures of the fish while they are in the water. Tarpon should always be left in the water if they are more than 40 inches long. Prohibited species should always remain in the water and should be released immediately.
  • When taking a picture of your catch, hold the fish horizontally and support its weight with both hands. This decreases the possibility of damaging the fish’s mouth and internal organs.
  • It is best to designate someone on the boat as the photographer, that way when an angler hooks up with a fish, the photographer is ready to go.
  • Fish photos for Catch a Florida Memory submissions should show a clear side view of the entire fish, including notable characteristics like fins and markings.
  • And remember, if you are releasing your catch… practice CPR – Catch, Photo, Release!

More Ethical Angling Tips