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Handling Your Catch

Once you have your fish on the bank or in the net there are a number of decisions to be made.

The first decision is "Do I keep the fish?" or "Do I return the fish?"

Fishery laws vary around the world, not only from country to country, but from area to area. The good fisherman will be aware of the laws that apply to him. These are the points that you must consider:

1. Can you keep any fish, or is the law totally catch and release?
2. Do you have to kill every fish you take?
3. Is it the correct season for taking the species you have caught?
4. Is there a minimum or maximum size limit for keeping fish?
5. Are you restricted to the number of fish you keep each day or each week?

Unless the laws state that you must kill your fish, you have a choice as to whether you kill the fish or release it.

Ask yourself these questions:

1. Am I going to eat this fish?
2. Am I going to have this trophy fish set up for display?

If the answer to either of these questions is "Yes." you have a good reason to keep the fish. If you cannot truthfully answer "Yes." to either of these questions, you should return the fish to the water.

It is our duty to protect our fisheries and the fish in them so that our sons and daughters can enjoy the fishing that we have enjoyed. A decent photograph is a good memento of a successful trip; a dead fish is not.

We at Rapala VMC Corporation support "Catch and Release".

On many occasions you will decide to release your fish before you have taken it from the water. If possible unhook the fish while keeping it in the water. Use a pair of Rapala forceps or pliers to release the hook, and let the fish swim away. If the fish is tired, support it in the water until it recovers enough strength to swim.

On other occasions you may use a landing net to lift the fish from the water. Lay the fish on a soft surface such as grass. Do not lay fish on rocks or stones. Purpose designed unhooking mats are the best solution.

Wet your hands. Dry hands remove the protective slime from the fish. Alternatively cover the fish with a wet cloth. The fish will lay still if you cover its eyes.

Remove the hook as gently as possible, carry the fish back to the water on the unhooking mat or in the landing net, and release it as quickly as possible.

Fish can be kept in a specially designed keep net or fish sack. Make sure that the fish has a large enough area to swim about, and do not overcrowd the net with too many fish. If possible peg the net or sack out in the water to maximize the available space for the fish. Do not keep fish in a keep net for too long, keep the net in the shade, and make sure that there is a good flow of water through the net.


A photograph of a good catch is the finest memento.

Set your camera up before you take the fish from the water. If you have a friend with you, they can take the photograph, but get everything arranged before handling the fish.

If you are on your own you can set your camera on a tripod with a remote cable release. Look through the view finder to work out where you will stand with the fish. Remember to leave enough room at the top of the photograph for your head. Lift the fish from the net, and get into position. You can operate the remote cable release with your foot. Take two pictures if your camera has a motor drive, otherwise be satisfied with one picture. Return the fish immediately to the water.

Handle fish as little as possible. Handle them very gently with wet hands. If you have caught a big fish, support it along the length of its body. When it is swimming the water supports the total length of the fish. Rough handling, or lifting only by the jaw or the tail can damage fish’s internal organs.


If the law states that you must keep your fish, or you have decided to keep a fish for eating or for mounting as a trophy you must kill your fish quickly and painlessly. Never leave a fish to die on the floor of the boat or on the bank. This is cruel, and in many countries it is illegal. Immediately hit the fish once across the back of the head with a hard, heavy object. This should kill the fish immediately. Hit it once more if you are not sure that the fish is dead.

You must now keep your fish in perfect condition until you get home.

1. Wrap it in polythene to retain the moisture.
2. Keep it in a cool box to retain the freshness.
3. Keep it out of the sun.
4. Keep it clean.

If you are going to eat your fish you may decide to clean it and fillet it immediately. This is certainly the best way to preserve the flavour and fresh taste. Find a clean surface to work on, and remove the intestines immediately. You can decide to fillet the fish immediately or to fillet it at home. The removal of the intestines will preserve the flavour for you.

Only you can decide whether to kill a fish or not. To many fishermen, the satisfaction of catching a good fish and returning it alive to the water is enough. However, there is nothing wrong with killing a fish provided that the law permits it, and it is done quickly and painlessly.

We would however suggest a policy to all fishermen.

"Do not kill your limit, but please limit your kill."


Reproduced by kind permission of Rapala ©Rapala

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