Last week we published some information on catch and release bonefshing from our friends at Bonefish & Tarpon Trust. That post covered hooks and fight time. Today we hear about handling and predators.
Minimize handling all fish; slime and scales can be easily damaged and removed with excessive handling, thereby greatly increasing risks of infection. In addition, recent reserach has shown that mechanical gripping devices can cause damage to mouth tissue if the bonefish struggles, so their use is best avoided.
Although it is better to hold the fish in the water with wet hands for a photo, the best way to release a bonefish is by using pliers to remove the hook without ever touching the fish.
- If you have to handle a bonefish, use clean, wet hands and gently support the bonefish from beneath the head and belly; nets, mechanical lip gripping devices and wet cloths can cause injury to the fish – use only with great care.
- Use hemostats or pliers to quickly remove hooks while keeping the fish in the water, and have your pliers ready and available to facilitate a quick release.
- Avoid exposing bonefish to air, even when taking a photo. If they must be held out of the water, limit it to a maximum of 15 seconds.
- Touching the gills can cause damage and impair the ability of a bonefish to breathe.
- If lip gripping devices are used, it’s best to use them only to restrain a calm fish in the water while remove the hook; if a fish’s weight is desired, cradle the bonefish in a sling and suspend the sling from the device.
The survival of released bonefish decreases severely when predators such as sharks and barracudas are abundant because these predators often attack a bonefish soon after it is released. In fact, fish that lose equilibrium after release are six times more likely to be attacked by predators.
- When predators become abundant and appear to be attracted to your fishing activity, consider moving to another fishing location.
- If you have caught a fish and potential predators are near, consider using a live well to hold your fish for a short time to allow releasing it some distance away from them.