With the often quiet and mentally recharging atmosphere that accompanies fishing comes a caveat. A day on the water can become a frantic moment of primal exhilaration. So when you take on nature and you have the upper hand, be mindful of how fragile a fish can be.
We aren’t always in the frame of mind to preserve life while catching. The thrill of the hunt can overload our better common sense. Such as one spring day I was fishing with a seasoned pro deep in a Martin County mangrove line. We followed a line of mullet and cast to the outside of the school and found the proverbial “pot of gold.” It seemed as if every species of inshore sport fish was ambushing our baits with such ferocity it made me deranged with excitement. This was quickly becoming a trophy day; it was also a day of education.
I got caught up in the excitement and lost my cool. I haphazardly began taking the fish off my line to get another bait in the water. And in my haste, I was given some stern yet indelible instruction in addition to an anatomy lesson. It was a humbling moment being schooled by the wiser. My lesson was to focus on the preservation of the fish, rather than scramble to catch another.
When you catch a fish, handle it as gently as possible and keep it in water as long as you can. Fish are buoyant when in water but are not when taken out—the internal organs can crush easily. Plus, their gills can dry out quickly. A good rule of thumb: as long as you can hold your breath underwater, the same goes for a fish out of the water.
There are many upsides to fishing. Understandably, for the fish who ends up on our table, there are very few. But for the fish that is calmly and correctly released back into the water, not only does the fish continue about his life, but the fisherman can feel a guilt-free adrenaline rush.