Anglers can take several actions to boost the chances a fish survives after being released by setting the hook quickly; using jigs, circle hooks and active baits like crankbaits; handling the fish firmly but gently; and quickly returning a fish to the water.
Catch-and-release fishing has become an increasingly important topic in recent years with expanded catch-and-release seasons in Minnesota for lake sturgeon, trout and bass. On Mille Lacs Lake, anglers must release all walleye they catch from Saturday, June 1, through Saturday, Nov. 30.
Anglers often choose to release large fish, and they’re required to release fish that aren’t of a legal size to keep.
Fish can be injured by hooks, stress and being pulled from deep water. Being hooked in the mouth does little damage to the fish, and setting the hook quickly helps avoid hooking a fish in the stomach or gills.
Jigs, circle hooks and active baits like crankbaits are more likely to hook a fish in the mouth. Barbless hooks or pinched barbs can help, but where the fish is hooked is more important than the presence or absence of a barb.
In the summer or when anglers are fishing deep water, the DNR encourages restraint when the fish are biting frequently. Fish pulled up from deep water can experience stress and injury, so anglers who plan on catch-and-release are reminded to avoid deep water.
Some catch-and-release tips include: cut the line if the hook is deep in a fish; wet your hands before touching a fish; consider using rubberized nets; unhook and release the fish quickly; support a fish’s weight with both hands or with a net when removed from the water; do not lift a fish vertically; if planning to release a fish, do not place it on a stringer or in a live well; revive a fish by cradling it under the belly and gently moving it back and forth in the water until it swims away; harvest a fish that can be legally kept if it is bleeding or can’t right itself.