Published Jan 10. 1996 - 28 years ago
Updated or edited Jan 16. 2016

C&R of salmon

This is some advice that Backwater Bob posted on the FLYFISH@ ListServer. It's good and sound advice for salmon fishers as well as anybody else that wants to C&R fish.

This is some advice that Backwater Bob posted on the FLYFISH@ ListServer. It's good and sound advice for salmon fishers as well as anybody else that wants to C&R fish.

Date: Thu, 4 Jan 1996 12:02:47 -0400
From: Bob Boudreau
Subject: Anadromous Catch & Release - Atlantic Salmon
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 obsevations.

Studies have shown 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 higher mortality.

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 your pregnant wife run a 6 minute mile and then immediatly sticking her head in the bathtub! (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.

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 absolutly sure that its energy has returned. You can usually feel the response in your hands (a very rewarding feeling). I had the priviledge this past season to hook and release a 35 lb. Atlantic Salmon. After a 30 minute fight I held the fish for 20 minutes before I felt confident it was ready. It was a large female that I saw the next day apparently none the worse for wear but a little wiser.

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 evedence that certain material in nets can do irreperable damage to fish's eyes. For trout I do not even handle them unless absolutly necessary. Just release in the water with forceps or cut the line.

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 80 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 flat.
  • Bring the fish as quickly as possible into reach or break the line.
  • Keep the salmon in the water.
  • 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.

Do Not:

  • 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 privledge, practice catch and release!


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