Does Catch and Release Work?

catch and release study

Well, yes and no. Here is the deal. It comes down to hook placement, out of water time, and exhaustion. However, catch and release as a whole definitely does work. The case for catch and release as an effective method to maintain a fishery can be proven through the research and data collection of the fish tagging program that some states offer. Another type of proof is individual anglers who have caught the same fish over and over again over a course of time. What adversely affects the release of a fish is a gut hook set, a long period of time being handled out of the water, and fatigue from the fight.

A bad hook set or gut hook severely damages the fish’s throat and stomach in most cases.¬†While in other cases the lodged hook being left in the fish blocks the fish from eating for a long period of time. This can be dependent on hook size vs fish size. A Bluegill with a throat hook will most likely die, while a shark with a throat hook will most likely live. However, recently a small shark was found washed ashore on a Florida beach. FWC collected the shark for study, and indeed found a hook lodged in its throat from a recent bout with an angler. Though it was so recent that the fish most likely did not starve, it was most likely due to the stress of the battle.

However, the good side of catch and release as seen by both research and the anglers who practice it severely outweighs the bad. Fish tagging programs in particular show a relatively high number of recaptures. This is a good sign. Another part of that research also shows that sometimes these fish continue to grow healthily and migrate some distances. I particularly like to see the distances travelled. This shows that some migrating species may require the same protection afforded in one state as opposed to more lax rules in other states. Because this migration verifies that these fish for the most part are not solely the responsibility of any given fishery. They are subjects that should be treated evenly across the board as one states waters can affect other states waters. The fish tagging programs, I believe, will eventually close this gap and make more efficient regulations to maintain a species as a whole.

Some interesting Data:

A recent recapture from the Louisiana Fish Tagging program shows a fish that was successfully released, and then recaptured over a year later. The fish had both grown and migrated to another state. See result:

louisiana_redfish_recapture data

Now check out Tampa area angler Mike Goodwine with a Redfish catch, and a repeat catch of the same fish 10 months later:

Catch and release redfish

10 Months Later:

Catch and release redfish return

Michigan DNR on Catch and Release:

Whats your opinion on catch and release? Comment below.