As anglers, we spend every adventure learning, then utilizing the lessons to catch fish. But there is one more task to apply when landing the fish. Call it a lesson in handling etiquette. I’ve seen plenty of anglers finesse a fish into their grasps. And in that moment of what should be delicate presentation, the angler rips the hook out of the fish or incorrectly handles this gem of nature.
Fish feel no pain. That debate has raged for years. However, on this topic, science favors the side of anglers. A fish has no brain capacity to render pain, but fish are not impervious to rough or improper handling. Hook removal should be done delicately. Having a pair of hemostats or thin, long-nosed pliers will render a hook’s removal quickly. A good application for swift hook removal is to flatten the barb (the little hook on the side of a hook).
Gently remove the hook, keeping the fish in water as much as possible. Be mindful of a fish’s natural defense (the slime created when threatened), and be careful not to handle the fish with bare hands too much or you will remove that slime and hurt the fish. Also, never grab a fish out of the water by its belly or gills.
Having a net ready to ease the capture is golden. During an offshore jaunt the fish will be rising from the deep. Be sure to have the proper tool handy to deflate the swim bladder. Gently release the air-filled bladder to A) not hurt the fish, and B) allow the fish to retain buoyancy in deep waters once released and returned to its depths. If the fish has been out of water for a good amount of time, revive that fish in the water by lightly moving water back and forth over the gills, using the tail as leverage. Unless you’re going to eat it, then I suppose my point is moot. Go catch a fish!