Tips for a successful releasing a fish

A successful release relies on a good knowledge of techniques and tools to reduce stress and injury to fish. Follow these tips to find the best ways to do so.

Rinse your hands in the water before handling the fish to avoid removing the protective layer of mucus from the fish’s body, especially if you have applied sunscreen or mosquito repellent. Mucus acts as a protective barrier against infections.

Avoid touching its gills and eyes. Gills are vital organs that allow fish to breathe. Even a minor injury to the gills can kill fish.

Limit out-of-water handling time to less than 15 seconds. The longer fish are exposed to the air, the less likely they are to survive, both in the winter and in the summer.

Keep the fish horizontal. This position reduces the risk of serious injury to the spine and internal organs of the fish.

Unhook and control your fish without using a fishnet. When a net is needed to decrease the fighting time, choose a small knot-free rubber or cotton mesh to limit the injuries that the fish could inflict to itself while struggling.

Have all the equipment on hand to unhook, measure and photograph your catch. The release will then be accelerated.

Carefully remove the hook using long nose pliers or cut the line as close as possible to the hook if it is too deep. It is preferable to leave a hook in place rather than remove it, which could cause more injury to the fish. The hook does not interfere with the fish’s diet. It will eventually dissolve naturally.

Use artificial bait and lures to facilitate unhooking and reduce risk and severity of injury. These types of bait and lure are swallowed less deeply than natural bait (worms, leeches, dead baitfish and other meats). Refer to the rules on the use of bait.

Use circular hooks when fishing with natural bait. This type of hook results in less deep strikes while maintaining comparable fishing success. For more information, please see the results of an experiment on successful brook char fishing using a circular hook (PDF 1.36 Mb) (in French only).

Adapt your gear (rod, reel and fishing line) to the target species to limit the fighting time, which can deplete the fish and even kill them.

Avoid release when the water temperature is too warm. It is an additional stressor for fish, particularly for species such as lake char, brook char and arctic char. These fish are more vulnerable to high temperatures. In these conditions, limit the number of times you catch and release. If you want to fish during these periods, go early in the morning when the water temperature is cooler, or target species more tolerant to warm water (e.g., bass, pike, walleye, perch, etc.).

Keep a fish if you see it bleeding and if the regulations allow it. Although the fish may seem strong when it is released, the consequences of stress and injury associated with its capture can affect its long-term growth, diet and reproduction.

Last update: May 9, 2024


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