bucktail bass

Tackle and Tactics – Catch and Release

Saltwater Edge Tackle and Tactics – Catch and Release

catch and release

Earlier this month I hooked a nice striper on a bucktail. I was excited because I knew it was my first “decent” surf caught striper of the season. During the fight I thought about where to best land it. As it was I was on a flat topped rock and as I stepped off to what I thought was a “stepping” stone just under the surface; except there was no there there and I ended up riding a small boulder like a pony. In the process I cracked my elbow and was reminded again about why I like to be encased in Thermoprene.  Happy to still be buttoned up I landed the fish and used the quiet water to my left to keep it corralled while I removed the hook and got it on the Boga. Weighing her was problematic due to the “pony ride” I had managed to get myself into. I could not get her tail out of the water and see the Boga at the same time. Nothing was getting “bottomed out” on this night; but there was undue handling trying to weigh a fish that was less than 30 pounds and I knew it. I reached for my camera; but mistakenly dug into the side pocket with the Uncle Josh on the opposite end of my bag. Finally the fish and my camera were in proximity and I snapped a a half dozen crappy pics.

catch and release

At this point I was on borrowed time as she was starting to roll and I felt bad about it. I got unsaddled and got into the surf and held her by the lip and faced her into the swell while supporting the belly. It was touch and go. I was glad the water was an early June cool and the tide was running. I held her by the tail and after a couple of unsuccessful test releases and a good 4 or 5 minutes I could feel the power in her tail and with the second vigorous attempt I let her go. As she glided into the darkness I knew I had unnecessarily made a mess of things…

The following morning I connected with my buddy Dave Anderson who runs the Go Tight Tournament and also edits Surfcasters Journal. I am thankful when we talk fishing as he is very generous and patient. I am certain he does not learn much from me other than maybe some marketing or saltwater fly fishing on rare occasion. I obviously shared with him the bungled catch and release process. He gave me permission to use excerpts from an article he wrote describing his experience with Go Tight. The tournament requires a photo that includes a ruler and a unique tag to document your catch. Dave says  you need “to prepare to measure (and/ or photograph) your fish before making your first cast..start by finding a good place to document (the) catch. The best places are flat areas of smooth gravel, flat boulders or, best of all, patches of wet weeds uncovered by the tide….One of the big no-no’s of competing in these C&R events is recording your fish on dry sand, if your fish looks like a cinnamon doughnut when you go to release it, no matter how fast you are, it’s not going to do well. Sand in their slime, gills and eyes can cause infection and can be very hard for them to rid themselves of, if you fish the open beach you should document on hard, wet sand or bring a small tarp or towel to take your photos on”

There is a growing awareness of recreational fishing’s impact on all fisheries. It’s especially true along the striper coast where stocks are declining and interest in surfcasting seems to be at an all time high. keepemwet.org is one organization has emerged to educate on the best science based practices for releasing fish.

Keepemwet™ is about releasing fish in the best condition possible. It’s a motto for minimizing air exposure, eliminating contact with dry surfaces, and reducing handling. It’s a movement to empower anglers to take small, simple steps to responsibly enjoy and share fishing experiences. Our goal is to reduce angling impact on fisheries by uniting conscientious companies, organizations, and anglers to promote science based practices for handling fish that are caught then released.
Keepemwet is the evolution of releasing fish. Our fish! Your Fish!

As I reflected on the whole episode I  realized that for many of us fishing is an experience and it is human nature to want to document it on occasion. In that case you need to prepare in advance to do so. I didn’t. I made a mess of it. I will do my best not to be in a similar situation again.

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