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Catch & Release

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  • 'we have more fun' FishingMN Creators

I highly encourage CPR (catch-photo-release). If you are on the Sportfishing is meatfishing mind-set, then at least try to move a little more towards the CPR mind-set.

I believe your future good fishing opportunities depend on it.

Doing CPR properly increases survival rates. With that in mind, here is some information given out by the Minnesota DNR.

Fishing pressure on Minnesota's lakes and streams has increased since the 1950s. More anglers are spending more time pursuing their quarry with increasingly effective gear and methods. Anglers also have better access to more fishing information, which boosts their fishing know-how.

However, fish populations are not increasing at the same rate as the demand for more good fishing holes.

There was a time when the only walleyes released by anglers were small ones or those that broke the line or shook off the hook.

Today, many anglers are choosing to release fish on purpose. By following good catch-and-release techniques and releasing medium- and large-sized fish, anglers can recycle the resource. This allows them to continually enjoy their sport and reduce impacts to the fishery, while ensuring similar opportunities and experiences for those that follow.

Releasing fish may be required by regulations or it may be voluntary. Either way proper catch-and-release techniques will help protect and preserve the resource. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) studied catch-and-release fishing practices last summer on Mille Lacs Lake, from May 17-Oct. 12, to find out how many walleye die after being released and why.

"Our study is confirming what we and many anglers already understood intuitively," said Keith Reeves, DNR fisheries research biologist, "Which is that most walleye will survive when handled properly."

Reeves noted that less than one out of every 40 walleye died when caught in the spring or fall compared to about out of every seven caught during the summer months. The size of the fish caught was also a factor in the results of the study. Although most fish died after suffering damage to internal organs caused by hooks, medium-sized walleye (17-21 inches in length) did appear more resilient to being caught and released than smaller or larger fish.

"Smaller fish appeared to be more vulnerable to hook damage, and large walleye were more vulnerable to stress and exhaustion," Reeves said. "Set the hook quickly, reduce the amount of time it takes to land a fish and handle it, and remove the hook carefully. These things should increase the likelihood of survival after the fish is released."

When it comes to catch-and-release, Reeves said there are several things anglers should do to minimize the number of fish that die from stress or hooking injuries.

- Set the hook quickly. This should set the hook in the fish's mouth, where it generally does little damage

- Play fish quickly to reduce the fish's physical exhaustion

- Use needle-nosed pliers, a hook remover or hook/barb cutting tool to remove imbedded hooks. If the hook is too deep, cut the line so at least an inch hangs out of the mouth

- Use active fishing methods, which tend to result in mouth hook-ups rather than gut hooking. Artificial baits are often fished actively, live baits are often fished passively

- Be prepared to take photos. Minimize the time out of water. This is especially important for fish pulled from deep water, which may have distended swim bladders

- Revive a fish by cradling it under the belly and gently moving it forward in the water until it swims away - Do not place fish you plan to release on a stringer or in a live well

- Wet your hands before touching a fish to prevent removal of their protective slime coat

- Do not release a fish that can be legally kept if it is bleeding heavily, or can't right itself

- Unhook and release the fish while it is still in the water, if possible, supporting its weight with both hands or with a net when removed from the water. Never lift them vertically from the water

- Always release fish in the calm part of a stream

- Never release a fish by tossing it back into the water

- Switch to barb-less hooks, pinch barbs down with pliers, or use circle hooks, which often lodge in the mouth rather than the gut or throat

- Hold a fish firmly but gently. Don’t drop it! And don't hold a fish by the eyes

- Fish in shallower water if you plan to practice catch and release.

The DNR will continue the walleye hooking mortality study on Mille Lacs this summer. Reeves said there are still some unanswered questions and many other ways to catch and handle fish that need to be understood.

"The more we know about catch-and-release, the better informed anglers will be the next time they go fishing," Reeves said.

The DNR also encourages anglers to practice some restraint when the fish are really biting, especially during the summer. By adjusting their fishing patterns, and not targeting a single species, anglers can help to conserve the resource by minimizing the loss of unharvested fish.

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Nice thread. I grew up fishing for bass and since Bill Dance, Al Linder, Hank Parker, Roland Martin said to practice catch and release when I was I kid, I just grew into it. Plus that carried into other species like catfish, walleyes, crappies etc... Now I release everything except a tasty walleye in the winter. I took my two walleyes for the year so I'm done till winter. Thanks Tonka Boy for the hook up on that spot!

I really like watching them swim away all ticked at me. Especially the ones that splash ya!

I'm for catch and release as much as possible whenever possible; however, I can only control me.

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Pretty good info Rick! Thanks!

My 2 cents- I'm all for catch and release, I also enjoy eating fish. But I'm not about stockpiling the freezer either. With todays technology- GPS, flashers, locators, big spendy boats- seems like the fisherman are starting to have an advantage over the fish. With a common sense approach to keeping fish for the table, and careful handling of fish we release, we should be able to enjoy quality fishing for many years to come. Like Rick said, photograph those big girls and let them go.

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Thanks Rick,

Good info. As I'm sure you noticed, we've had an interesting and sometimes heated discussion on this subject in the Bemidji Forum the last few days with the main conclusions all pointing towards education and pier pressure.

With the onset of the "Live Well" and digital camera, the reasons for releasing have changed for the better, I believe.

Again, great info.

Pat Bruno
Bruno's Birch Haven Resort
Gull Lake
Tenstrike, Minnesota

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Good thread Rick.

Someone on another thread posted the stages that we go through as fisherpeople. To paraphrase it, it was something like the first stage we keep all we catch, the second stage we just keep the big ones and the third stage is releasing almost everything. The CPR/C&R/Selective Harvest mantra fits into stage 3.

I have nothing against someone keeping 1 or 2 large "fish-of-a-lifetime" for the wall (I know there are replicas, but to me it just wouldnt be the same, and I only have one fish by the way...lol), but there are still way too many people who keep far too many big fish. I cant see eating 5,10,15, 20 ten pound walleyes a year...must not have taste buds...and if they mount that many, they must be either loaded or poor because of all the taxidermy fees...lol.

Big walleyes, big pike, bass, sunfish, crappie, whatever, are what keeps the stock in our lakes high, keeps the smaller fish in check and provides us fisherpeople something to chase and get excited about.

Immagine what our lakes would be like if we all progressed to stage 3?

[email protected]

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I was watching the Linder Angling Edge. They were bass fishing and strongly encouraged to release the bigger fish. The fish you should keep are the smaller ones. Every body wants to bring home big fish. They said by releasing the bigger fish it will the spawn and help keep the population up. Also like Muskies it may take years for a really nice fish to develop. So dont keep a lot of big fish. They are experienced in spawning and are to big to be in danger of being eaten. So they will be around for a long time.

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I agree. I've found myself holding up nice trophy bass (not as much as I'd like) from time to time and always debate whether or not to mount a nice fish. Every time it goes back into the water and I feel good about it. Maybe I can catch him next year and it'll be a little bigger. Replicas are just as good.

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I agree with catch and release and would encourage others do to the same- at least some of the time- What I have a problem with is when someone decides to keep a large fish I have seen it several times where people in boats next to the kept fish- Voice there displeasure on that persons decision to keep the fish. If someone decides to keep a fish- neighboring boats should keep there opinion to themselves and not voice it on the water- you can wait till you get home and voice your opinion in places like this forum- if they are obeying the law --- leave them alone!

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Good point deadminnow,
If they are within the law, then yes it is their right. There is a difference between education and being pushy, rude and harrassing a fellow fisherperson. One could sugjest that it be released and state your reasons why, but to demand that it be and belittle that person because they would not, would be wrong.

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The Three Ages of the Fisherman

1) When he wants to catch all the fish he can.

2) When he strives to catch the largest fish.

3) When he studies to catch the most difficult fish he can find, requiring the greatest skill and most refined tackle, caring more for the sport than the fish.

-Edward Ringwood Hewitt

(from Charles F. Waterman, A History of Angling, Winchester Press)


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But how am I going to pickle my 5lb bass, if I keep throwing them back???


Just kidding.

Good thread. Well written.

My father of 79 years was a true meat hunter, until I converted him. It took a trip to the English River where we caught tons of walleyes and pike. It was funny......We were out about 30 minutes on the first day, when I hooked a nice 20" eye. Said: "Nice fish" as I tossed it back in the water (please note that this was our first fish, we were staying for a week, and we just got on the water). Dad almost got whiplash, when he spun his head around to see the eye swim away. "What the he!! are you doing!!!!!" I laughed and told him that we would be catching plenty more and we had all week. His response was "what if the weather gets bad, you'll wish you had that fish".

Well, by the end of the trip, we averaged about 50 eyes, and 20+ pike each day.

During that trip, he released 2 big pike (pushing close to 20lbs) and a 27" eye.

Now he understands.

But, the difference in the "old timers" mentality, is that when you went fishing, you didn't have all the gizmos and gadgets. Heck, you didn't even have a lake map. You just went either to where other boats were fishing, or where you remember catching fish the last time.

Sometimes, you caught fish, most times you didn't. So when you did catch something, it was something to bragg about, where most people didn't catch anything. So, you ate it, because you didn't have that luck all the time. And it was luck.

"Yesterday", a newby couldn't go to Mille Lacs, drop in a boat and catch his limit. If you did, it was just luck, because most people didn't even have a flasher back then. If they did, they didn't even know what mud-flat they were on. It was all luck, unless years of experience came into play. However, the vast majority of people didn't have that experience.

Today, a newby can go to Mille Lacs, with his GPS, Graph, and good lake map, catch his limit. Yesterday, it wasn't that easy. Going into a bar and saying you got your limit of fish, turned heads and people flocked to you to find out how, where, when, and what. Today, a limit of fish on Mille Lacs, doesn't even get you the time of day.

Look at ice fishing just 10 years ago. Go out, drill some holes. If the fish bite, GREAT. If they didn't, oh-well. Don't know why..........
Today, you got cameras, GPS, flashers, power augers and the mobility to catch what you want, when you want.

Times have changed, technology has changed, so our culture and responsibility has to change.

Let 'em go so they can grow!!!

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