Montana's fisheries managers say some fish are lost during catch and release fishing due to the way the angler handles the fish and for how long, the type of fishing gear used, whether the fish is removed from the water or not, and the water temperature.
Catch and release has been popular with conservation-minded anglers for decades. Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks first used it as a fisheries management tool on the Madison River in 1978.
Almost 30 years later, there are 126 waters in the Western and Central fishing districts with regulations calling for catch and release. These regulations protect fish populations from becoming depleted due to heavy fishing pressure, diseases such as whirling disease, or predators including other fish, and they help increase the number of bigger fish.
Most experts say these benefits outweigh the fact that some fish don't survive being released.
Here are tips to give a fish the best possible chance to survive:
* Play the fish as rapidly as possible. Have pliers, cameras, hook removal tools, and other gear ready to go. Do not play the fish to total exhaustion.
* Keep the fish in water as much as possible; try to remove the hook without handling the fish.
* Remove the hook gently. Never squeeze the fish or put your fingers in its' gills. There are hook removal devices available from most sporting/fishing stores to assist you and, use of barbless hooks may make releasing fish easier.
* If the fish is deeply hooked, cut the line about one inch above the hook.
* Do not yank the hook out. Most fish survive with hooks left in them.
* Release the fish only after it has gained its equilibrium. If necessary, gently hold the fish upright in the current facing upstream and move it slowly back and forth.
Release the fish in quiet water as near as possible to the area where it was hooked.