How to Handle Fish

Handling fish properly protects both you and the fish. Some fish have sharp fins or teeth that can cut you if you don’t hold them correctly. Thus, different fish species need to be handled in different ways. Hold some fish by the jaw, such as bass or trout, and others along the body, such as a catfish. Learn by watching an experienced angler, but keep the following rules in mind:

  1. Always wet your hands first before handling fish. Wet hands are less likely to damage the protective coating of mucous on the outside of the fish. This slimy layer helps protect the fish’s skin from disease and makes it glide easily in the water.
  2. Don’t allow fish to flop around on the bank, the dock, or the floor of the boat. If keeping fish, put them on ice or in a bucket of cool water.
  3. If you are not keeping the fish, take the fish off the hook as soon as possible. Gently lower it into the water until it begins to swim away. If it isn’t ready to swim, you may need to slowly swish it in the water first. Remember, no fish is a “junk” or trash” fish. All fish play important roles in the aquatic ecosystem.
  4. If you are not keeping the fish, using barbless hooks can make it easier to take the fish off the hook.

Watch the "Safe Fishing" video.


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