February 2000, Robert Boudreau (all rights reserved)
Preserve the Legend
Catch and Release Techniques
Proper catch and
release techniques are extremely important and relevant to Atlantic
Salmon fisherpersons here in Atlantic Canada as a result of regulatory
requirements. All salmon over 24.6 inches must be released and a great
deal of study and education has been dedicated to proper techniques.
Despite these efforts however there is still room for improvement by our
local anglers based on my observations. Studies have show that mortality
rates of less than 5% can be achieved by using proper techniques. One of
the most important issues is exposure to air. A recent catch and release
study by a local fisheries biologist suggests that air exposed fish
experienced devastating additional stress levels causing significantly
I relate an excellent analogy when I think of holding an Atlantic Salmon
out of the water for a photo opportunity. It is like having a track
a 6 minute mile and then immediately sticking his head in the water
bucket at the finish line!
(Don't try this at home.) Under some circumstances this additional
stress may be all it takes to push an exhausted fish past the point of
no return. I am certainly an offender when it comes to taking pictures
of large fish but I do try to keep air exposure to a minimum. I
put the well-being of the fish first and foremost, the photo comes second.
Another important issue for salmon is taking time to revive the fish. I
hold the fish upright with one hand on the tail and the other under the
fish just behind the gills. The fish should be pointed up river to allow
the water to wash through the gills as easily as possible . Some suggest
moving the fish back and forth however I am not convinced this is
necessary in my experience. Hold the fish until you are absolutely sure
that its energy has returned. You can usually feel the response in your
hands (a very rewarding feeling). By the way most of the local anglers
who practice catch and release for salmon do not use nets. I am
convinced that nets do more damage than good and a hand tailed properly
handled fish has an excellent chance of survival. There is apparently
evidence that certain material in nets can do irreparable damage to
fish's eyes. Water temperature is also a critical consideration. Studies
indicate that the higher the water temperature the higher the mortality
rate for released fish. Personally, in the case of Atlantic Salmon I
would like to see angling closed when water temperatures reach 70
degrees. A trout or salmon caught in warm water should be played quickly
and handled with great care.
Here are some do's and don'ts that are used in this area
- Pinch the hook barb
- Bring the fish as
quickly as possible into reach or break the line.
- Keep the salmon in
- Remove the fly with
hemostats or pliers or cut the line at the hook.
- Support the fish in
an upright position facing upstream until it is fully revived.
- Beach the salmon.
- Squeeze the fish.
- Hold the fish
upright by the tail.
In the end , only the
conscientious efforts of individual anglers can make the difference.
Help preserve the privilege, practice catch and release!