Quandary: How to catch and release fish
Quandary, the old and wise mountain goat, has been around Summit County for ages, and has the answers to all questions about life, love and laws in the High Country. Have a question for Quandary? Email your queries about Summit and the High Country to Quandary@summitdaily.com.
What’s the proper way to catch and release a fish?
Good question, I’ve noticed over the years that people often release their fish, but seem to not know why. Catch and release is supposed to give little fishies a chance to grow up, have little ones of their own and then find their way to your dinner plate. So if you are just tossing dead fish back into the water, you’re missing the point. Sitting on your camping chair chucking a little hatchling 5 feet into the water, does not help the species.
Think of an NFL player that’s gone down with a concussion. The trainers aren’t going to run out onto the field, toss a D-lineman onto a stretcher and speed off to allow play to continue. Rather, they will take their time, and make sure the injured person won’t sustain further injury through the process. Just like an athlete, your little fish has undergone a lot of stress from the experience of getting jabbed in the mouth with a hook to fighting to stay in the water. By the time a fish gets to shore it’s exhausted and fragile. Basically, as soon as you catch a fish, begin concussion protocol.
If your big catch turns out to be a little minnow, keep him out of the water for the shortest amount of time possible. Obviously, the first key is to dislodge the hook from the littl guy’s mouth. Often it’s easy enough to get the hook out while the fish is in the water, but if it the hook’s in at a weird angle or place you might need to pull him out for a few seconds. Never keep a fish out of water for more than a minute. So if you know Aunt Mildred isn’t great with the camera, keep your catch in the drink until you’re sure she actually knows which button takes the shot.
If the fish bit off more than he could chew, and swallowed the hook, you might have to cut the line, and let your new-found friend keep the hook as a reminder to be a little smarter next time.
Once you’ve undone your damage, don’t just plop the fish back into the water. Keep the fish between your hands and gently move him back and forth in the water if you are in a lake so that the water goes into the gills. They’re kind of like those toy cars you have to run back and forth across the rug to get to go anywhere. If you are in a river, just hole the fish by the belly and face him into the current. Once the fish starts moving his tail on his own, and looks less in shock you can try to release him and see if he swims off on his own. If you’ve done everything right, the little fellow should swim on to live a nice happy life until someone else again plucks him from the waters down stream. If you haven’t done everything right, and the poor guy starts swimming sideways or belly up, don’t worry these things do happen. There is no need to go all Dr. Quin Medicine Woman, or make some kind of emergency transit to PetCo, some fish just weren’t meant to grow.
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