By carefully following these simple instructions, you can release your fish unharmed.
Time is of the Essence
Play and release the fish as quickly and carefully as possible. An exhausted fish may be too weak to recover.
Keep the Fish in the Water
A fish out of water is suffocating and may injure itself on rocks, etc. Try to keep the fish out of water for no more than 15 seconds.
Wet your hands before handling any live fish. Keep your fingers away from the gills. Don’t squeeze the fish. Small fish may be held gently around the middle; let them swim away once they’ve recovered. Larger fish may be held securely by the tail and bottom jaw. If a net is used, make sure it is fine-meshed to avoid injuries to the gills or eyes.
Remove the hook with small pliers or use your thumb and forefinger to gently shake it loose. If the hook cannot be easily removed, cut the leader. A regular steel hook will rust out fairly quickly. Do not use stainless or gold-plated hooks.
Reviving the Fish
To revive a fish once it is back in the water, hold it in a swimming position in the water and move it gently back and forth until it is able to swim away.
Lake trout (togue) often have expanded air bladders after being pulled up rapidly from deep water. If the belly appears expanded, release the fish from the hook first, then gently press your thumb along the stomach near the paired belly fins and move it forward a few times to remove air from the bladder. Finally, proceed to revive and free the fish (see Step 5).
One good way to aid you in releasing your fish quickly is to use barbless hooks in the first place or bend the barbs over, or simply file them off!
“If you enjoyed catching your fish, so will the next angler!”