Fish Handling Tips
Handle fish as little as possible and only with wet hands.
Match tackle to the targeted fish to land it quickly and minimize stress on the fish. Large species such as sharks, billfish and tarpon should be brought alongside the boat within 20 minutes of being hooked. If you are consistently landing exhausted fish that require extensive efforts to resuscitate, consider using heavier tackle.
If a fish needs to be handled, wet your hands. This reduces the amount of fish slime removed from the fish. Fish slime protects the fish from infection and aids in swimming.
Never hold a fish by its jaw, gills or eyes. This can cause damage.
Large fish, such as tarpon, should not be boated or dragged over the gunwale of the boat because this could injure their internal organs.
Sometimes it’s better to carefully remove the hook so it can be released, and other times it’s best to cut the line as close to the hook as possible while the fish is in the water – especially if it’s large or agitated.
Never hold on to or tow a fish not allowed to be harvested to a different location to weigh or measure it. Reduce handling by using a dehooking tool. Dehooking tools allow anglers to quickly release their catch while minimizing injuries and handling time.
Remember, 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 internally.
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.
Whenever possible, take pictures of the fish while in the water. Tarpon should always be left in the water if they are more than 40 inches long.
And remember, when you are releasing your catch… Practice CPR - Catch, Photo, Release!
To learn more about fish handling methods and gear you can use to increase the survival of released fish, visit http://myfwc.com/fishing/saltwater/recreational/fish-handling/