Why practice catch-and-release fishing

You probably encountered the saying, “If you love someone, set them free …” Did you know that you can apply the same thing to fishing? If you have a passion for angling but have the same amount of love and respect for the fish, then the optimal way to have the best of both worlds is to practice catch-and-release. This method allows you to do what you love most and at the same time, conserve the population of fish.

In Los Cabos, the popularity of saltwater fishing has steadily increased over the years and more people are hitting the waters to pursue their targeted species, which is becoming an increasing concern for the sustainability of fishery resources in Cabo.  To protect the underwater ecosystem, the municipality of Cabo maintains regulations which include following certain limitations. For instance, anglers are restricted to a total of 10 fish per day; however, the catch should not exceed five of a single species. In addition, a fisherman may catch no more than one full-grown swordfish, sailfish, marlin, or shark and not exceed two halibut, tarpon, roosterfish, or dorado on a single day.

More fishermen are becoming more attuned to environmental conservation and embracing the catch-and-release method. In line with this, the Mexican law states that “There is no limit to the practice of “catch and release”, as long as the fish that exceed the bag limit be returned to their environment in good survival condition.”

For the benefit of those who are not too familiar with this fishing technique, catch-and-release is one way of conserving native species.  Unlike typical fishing, where the fish usually ends up on the dining table or as a trophy on someone’s wall, this technique allows the angler to return the catch back to the water. When done correctly and responsibly, this method can help preserve marine populations. However, poor techniques can cause mortality to increase and populations to decline.

Reasons to practice catch and release

Some of you may wonder, why go through all the trouble to catch a fish only to set it free after? Although catch-and-release is usually a voluntary action, there are several reasons that you might consider next time you go sportfishing in Cabo.

releasing catch safely
source: Ireland on the Fly

Allowing species to grow bigger –  Setting the smaller swimmers free gives them an opportunity to develop and grow bigger. The little ones today may have the chance to become one of the big guys in the future.

Letting populations thrive – Releasing a marine creature without permanent harm during angling increases its survival rate and gives it a chance to reproduce. Thus, boosting populations and maintaining ecological balance.

Thinking of the future – The rise of anglers is beginning to affect the quality of fishing habitats.  By demonstrating the willingness to practice this technique, sportfishing has better odds of continuing on. It also benefits the future generation of anglers since it prevents overharvesting of species in the face of increasing angling activities and rise of highly effective tackle.

Catch and release techniques

Here are some catch-and-release tips to help you minimize stress and injury to the fish and increase the odds of its survival.

  • Fight quickly, especially during warm months since fish can be more prone to stress in high water temperatures where oxygen levels are reduced.
  • Use the appropriate rod, reel and line to lessen the time of struggle.  Utilizing a light tackle for big species can prolong the battle and cause unnecessary exhaustion.  You can avoid situations like this by using the right gear for the size of targeted species to reduce the level of stress.
  • Refrain from using scents and artificial baits that entice the marine creature to swallow the hooks which can cause deep-hooking injuries.
  • Choose single barbless hooks to minimize injury.  Flatten the barb against the hook using needle-nosed pliers for easy removal.
  • Releasing fish in the seasource: Source: Salt StrongBe careful when landing the fish and avoid excessive handling.  If possible, use a landing net and keep your catch in a minimum of six inches of water during the process. A landing net decreases handling time, stress, and the chances of causing injury to the fish. If you need to handle your catch, do so by gently cradling it under the belly.   Keep your hands wet to avoid removing the natural coating that protects it from bacteria and parasites. Moreover, do not touch the gills and eyes because this can hurt the fish.
  • The key is to release immediately. If you want to capture the moment, simply take a few good shots then set your catch free. If possible, keep it partially submerged during the photo op. Also, keep in mind that it is not recommended to place the fish in a live well with the intention of releasing it later because its chances of survival will likely decline.
  • It’s not just a matter of releasing the fish back to the wild. The manner of releasing it is also very important. Do not simply throw back your catch and assume that it will swim away just like that. From the fishing charter boat, position the head towards the water and release it gently; letting it break the surface head first.  Furthermore, an exhausted marine creature may need some coaching before you can let it go safely. A fish suffering from fatigue has the tendency to float belly up. You can help the tired creature by cradling it on its belly while submerged in water. Patiently wait until it recovers its energy and finds the strength to swim on before releasing it.

Sustainable practices like catch-and-release can ensure the thrill of the catch for generations ahead.

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