Prologic, a European brand that specializes in products for carp fishing, puts out a line of fish care products including STERI-7Xtra, a fish care antiseptic spray that's reportedly clinically proven to disinfect mouth and body wounds.
Finally, barotrauma refers to damage caused by decompression in fish brought up to the surface from certain depths. Although mostly a problem in saltwater species like rock fish, freshwater species like perch, walleye, bass, crappie, pike and musky can also be affected. Studies conducted in the St. Lawrence River by Scheer et. al. (2009) on smallmouth bass, walleye and yellow perch revealed that the incidence of barotrauma increased with depth, first appearing at 6.1 m (20 feet), with a threshold at approximately 10 m (33 feet), from which the incidence increased to 100% at 21 m (69 feet). Mortality occured in 67% of the fish with barotrauma. Signs of barotrauma can be subtle or very obvious, and ways to manage it vary.
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Worldwide, "best guess" estimates put the number of fish landed by recreational anglers at 47 billion/yr. In Canada in 2015, 3.2 million licensed anglers fishing 47 million days caught 194 million fish. The top five species caught accounted for 81% of total fish harvest in 2015, with walleye (pickerel) being the most predominant species caught nationally (26% of total catch), followed by trout (20%), northern pike (13%), perch (12%), and bass (10%) (Source: DFO, Survey of Recreational Fishing in Canada 2015). Canadian anglers released approximately 135 million fish (69%).
Despite the fact that in North America catch-and-release (C&R) is a popular voluntarily-adopted conservation strategy as well as a fisheries management tool, there is enough evidence to suggest that C&R is "not that great" for individual fish. Due to a number of concerns, the practice was effectively banned in Germany (2002) and Switzerland (2008).
Anglers tend tobelieve that C&R is a benign activity (no mortality and few sub-lethal effects) but are generally not aware of research findings that point to incidents of physiological stress, barotrauma, increased predation upon release, lower activity and appetite, slower growth and subsequent infection. The Freshwater Fisheries Society of British Columbia (2005) reported an average of 20% mortality in released fish.
Researchers and anglers agree that more can and should be done to improve the way we handle fish during C&R to improve fish welfare. Many advocate for species-specific best practices. In summary, experts say you should:
(1) minimize the time you fight your fish,
(2) use single barbless J , circle or offset (cam) hooks and avoid using live bait,
(3) minimize the time the fish is out of water,
(4) protect the fish from damage while it is out of the water,
(5) avoid fishing during extremes in water temperature and
(6) avoid barotrauma.
Using heavier fishing gear (rod, reel, line) helps bring fish in faster and prevents fish exhaustion. Fighting a fish for an extended period of time may seem like "sport", but it has marked negative physiological effects on fish, including acidosis (much like muscle cramping in people).
Decreasing the likelihood of deep hooking, organ and tissue damage and bleeding is more humane and improves survivability post catch and release (see barbless hooks in another section of this website).
Feeling like "a fish out of water" is more than just a feeling of awkwardness. Lack of oxygen for more than a few minutes can lead to serious complications. KEEPEMWET FISHING is a recently formed science based advocacy group that promotes minimizing air exposure, eliminating contact with dry surfaces and reducing handling.
Large fish like pike inevitably twist around and roll in a regular net once it is lifted into a boat or on shore, increasing the chance of injury to the fish and prolonging release time. Using a cradle to secure a large fish, unhooking it and keeping it in water while you measure it is a best practice. There are a number of fish- friendly rulers you can use while the fish is in the water, including the Release Ruler, which not only measures the fish but gives you a very close approximation of its weight (releaseruler.com) .
Gently handling fish with wet hands to avoid removing the slime layer, using fish-friendly (rubber) netting material to minimize skin and fin damage, not
touching the gills or eyes and avoiding the use of a lipping device are all recommended practices.
Not letting the fish flop around on shore or the bottom of your boat and not hanging the fish vertically to weigh it are also best practices that will
reduce your impact on fish and make you an ethical angler.
Not as popular in North America but quite common in the UK, weigh slings allow anglers to get an accurate weight while keeping fish in a horizontal position. EGO (egofishinggear.com) makes a sling that can also be used as a cradle, and bottomdwellerstackle.com sells a reasonably priced sling.
Many large predator slings and comfort mats are also available from european retailers like sportsdirect.com.
For a solid overview of C&R best practices, follow this link to the Cooke Lab at Carleton University
Casselman, S. J. (2005). Catch-and-release angling: a review with guidelines for proper fish handling practices. Fisheries Section, Fish and Wildlife Branch, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources.
Cooke, S. J., & Sneddon, L. U. (2007). Animal welfare perspectives on recreational angling. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 104(3), 176-198.
Klefoth, T., Kobler, A., & Arlinghaus, R. (2008). The impact of catch-and-release angling on short-term behaviour and habitat choice of northern pike (Esox lucius L.). Hydrobiologia, 601(1), 99-110.
Schreer, J. F., Gokey, J., & DeGhett, V. J. (2009). The incidence and consequences of barotrauma in fish in the St. Lawrence River. North American Journal of Fisheries Management, 29(6), 1707-1713..