Catch and release fishing improves native fish populations by allowing more fish to remain and reproduce in the ecosystem. This practice provides an opportunity for increasing numbers of anglers to enjoy fishing and to successfully catch fish. Releasing native fish caught while in a national park will help to ensure that enjoyment of this recreational opportunity will last for generations to come.
In catch and release fishing anglers immediately release native fish - unharmed - back to the water where they are caught. When done correctly, catch and release methods result in high survival rates. But catching and releasing fish successfully takes practice.
Learn the proper techniques and you’ll soon be catching and releasing fish in a safe, humane way.
Before You Go
- Learn the regulations. Some parks require the catch and release of native species. Be sure to learn the regulations of the park you plan to fish at.
- Avoid Stressful Water Conditions. Extremely low flows or high water temperatures could be stressful for the fish. Instead, sit on the bank and enjoy watching the fish and your surroundings. You’ll be preserving fish and fishing for future generations.
The right tools for the job decrease the fish’s stress and increase its chance of survival after release.
- Rod, reel, and line – Use equipment with sufficient power and strength to land the fish quickly. Long struggles on light fishing gear can tire and stress fish unnecessarily.
- Use artificial lures or flies – When you use artificial lures or flies, the fish are generally hooked in the lip, making it easier to remove the hook quickly.
- No bait – Using bait often results in deep hooking injuries. If possible, avoid the use of scents and artificial baits that encourage fish to swallow hooks. Note: Possessing or using live or dead minnows or other bait fish, amphibians, non-preserved fish eggs or fish roe is prohibited in fresh waters within national parks, except in specially designated waters. Consult the fishing regulations before using bait in national parks.
- Use single, barbless hooks – Properly sized, single barbless hooks reduce fish handling time and injury. Two hooks can be removed from treble hooks using wire snips or pliers. Barbs can be removed by flattening the barb against the hook shank with needle-nosed pliers or fishing hemostats.
Landing the Fish
It takes time and practice to perfect the art of catching and landing the fish. Follow this advice to hone your techniques.
- Stay close. National Park Service fishing regulations require anglers to closely attend their rod or line. When you’re alert and nearby, you greatly reduce the opportunity for fish to swallow hooks deeply.
- Avoid playing fish to exhaustion. A tired fish takes longer to recover due to lactic acid buildup. Avoid playing the fish to exhaustion and land it as quickly as possible. Then, release the fish quickly.
- Use a landing net. Landing nets reduce handling time, stress, and the potential for injury, especially for large fish that are difficult to manage. Large frames with shallow nets made of rubber or small, soft, knotless mesh are best.