How to catch and release fish safely?

Fishing can be an exciting hobby that enables us to catch fish that we can take home and put on the dinner table. But at times fishing can also result in catching undersize or unintended species.

Safe catching and releasing methods should be practiced to ensure the fish being released has the best chance of survival. Also, what that means for us, it enables us to fish into the future.


Removing hooks safely and with the least amount of damage

When reeling in a fish and de-hooking an intended fish to be released. If possible, try to keep the fish in the water and use a hook remover or a long nosed-pliers to remove the hook.

If you’re in a situation when a fish is gut hooked. This is when a fish has been hooked deep in the throat. It’s best to leave the hook in the fishes mouth and try to cut the line off as close to the hook as possible.

The best way to prevent gut hooking a fish is by using circle hooks. Circle hooks are designed in such a way that it hooks in the corner of a fish’s mouth.


How to handle fish once caught?

When it comes to handling fish its best to keep the fish in the water as fish can suffocate without water pushing through its gills. Fish also have a slime coating on the surface of their body and if inappropriately handled the coating can be removed.

If it’s necessary to remove the fish from the water there a few correct ways to do this. Either use wet hands or a wet towel to handle the fish. Use a net without knots or whenever placing down a fish onto a surface make sure the surface is cool and wet. Lip-grips also make handling fish a lot easier and can be bought at any local tackle shop or online.


Making use of lip-grips and handle fish with wet hands


Releasing fish the right way

Once a fish is de-hooked release the fish horizontally into the water. If the fish has been out of the water for a little too long it can become unconscious. Prior to releasing, hold onto the fish in the water and try to push water through its gills.

This is best done by either holding onto its tail or underbelly and moving it through the water back and forth. Once revived, the fish should kick and swim away.

Keep in mind not all fish should be released back into the water if caught. Within Victorian waters, Carp and Redfin Perch shouldn’t be released. Carp, is considered a noxious species and it’s considered illegal to release them back into the water.

Redfin Perch are also strongly discouraged to be returned back into the water also as they impact our native fish populations.


How to dispatch a fish for keeping

I highly advise once catching a fish you do intend to keep. Kill it immediately and humanely. This is best done with a quick blow to the head and placing the dead fish into an ice slurry. Store it away from sunlight as this ensures the fish stays fresh and prevents the fish from going off.



Always check local regulations as most fish cannot be gutted and filleted when you’re fishing. This is to ensure catch limits and sizes have adhered too. It’s best to gut and clean a fish at local boat ramps or at home and disposing of waste correctly in general waste bins.


4 thoughts to “How to catch and release fish safely?”

  1. Being from a commercial fishing background I really enjoyed reading this article.The amount of wastage that happens behind closed doors are a terrible insight to have with not much hope for minimization of waste in the industry. 

    When recreational fishing I have tried to remain conscious to catch and release my undersized fish with minimal harm but you have some great pointers that I’ve never considered. 

    Do you think a fish will eventually spit a hook from down its throat and heal effectively? I have caught many with scaring and evidence from foul hooking and biting so they must be somewhat resilient.

    Thanks for your great advice

    Rob NZ

    1. Hi Rob,

      Thanks for taking the time and reading my post. It’s sad what happens in the industry if this is the case from your experience. I think we just need to consciously make the effort if we’re fishing and take responsibility to ensure any caught under size fish has the highest chance of survival.

      To be honest, I don’t know if the fish will eventually spit the hook out. But by leaving it in if throat hooked will have a far greater chance of surviving rather then trying to take it out and causing further damage. 



  2. Everyone can have a hobby like fishing. Some peoples takes it as their profession and some takes it as their passion. Whatever it means to them they should learn the method of catching fish by abiding some rules and regulations. Such as You can’t catch an undersized fish for your meal. Thanks for sharing this kind of article about fishing. Hopefully all the viewers will understand the matter and shall apply.

    1. Hi Jamalbg,

      Thanks for taking the time and reading the post. Hopefully from reading this post a lot more people abide by the rules as this ensures we prevent overfishing and helps sustain native fish species.



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