Search For More Fishing Tips

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Handle Fish

Every time you go fishing you become an ambassador for our sport. Your actions on the beach especially, but also on the boat, govern how the public judge us. The most critical factor is our handling of fish.

Most anglers realise also, that it's in our own best interests to preserve that part of the catch that we cannot, or do not want to keep for eating. It may be a small contribution to the overall fish stocks, but nevertheless it is a worthwhile contribution and does not add to further depletion.

We look here, at the best way to handle and conserve the fish we catch, and how to return them safely to the water.

Netting a fish instead of using the gaff


There is a case for using a gaff on massive boat conger and 20lb plus shore eels. But this needs to be done by somebody who understands the need to place that gaff in the underside of the eels jaw where there is soft membrane and little else. A small neat hole here does no harm. Those of you who think such precision is impossible should take a trip out with Newhaven's Terry Lee (Sea Breeze 3) or Glyn Lloyd from Cardiff. Gaffing the conger in the body, as in the old days, is unacceptable now to most anglers and also to those skippers that want to remain respected in angling circles.

Giant skate will also need to be nicked with a gaff in the leading edge of the wing, but again, a neat hole here does no harm and is less of a wound than most that occur naturally on the seabed as fish make their living. Treated like this, the conger and skate can return to their home fit and healthy to fight another day. Stingray and monkfish may need to be gaffed too. Tagged fish, initially gaffed aboard, returned, and then re-caught are the best evidence that careful gaffing does no harm. That's where the need to gaff ends.

Surely sharks will have to be gaffed? No way! Small sharks can be lifted by two men easily enough. One grabs the dorsal and the other the tail and gently lifts the shark aboard for unhooking, then return. Bigger shark are left in the water and the trace cut near the hook. Any regular shark angler knows the numbers of shark swimming around quite happily with long-liners hooks in their jaws. The difference is angling hooks should be bronzed patterns that are quickly shed by the shark, whereas long line hooks have a coated finish that resists corrosion.

Potential record shark to be brought home need only be tailed with a strong rope tailer and then lifted aboard when ready via the tail and dorsal. Besides, tailing is a more secure way to handle big fish, because when gaffing, a simple twist of their powerful body is enough to free them from the gaff. Archaic mid body gaffing procedures are unacceptable in modern behaviour and photography anyway.

Some skippers, like Dave Taylor, who runs "Aldebran" out of Aberystwyth actually "nets" porbeagles up to 90lbs in a massive, purpose built landing net. Once in the net, the netting gives a good grip and spreads the sharks weight. This illustrates the ease with which cod of 40lbs, pollack over 20lbs, ling etc, can be landed. And without that inevitable risk of loss when using the gaff.

Tope can also be secured by grabbing the tail and dorsal and lifting them aboard. Done like this, the body stays supported and you get a good grip. Also, by holding the dorsal you have the tope held in mid body which stops it twisting round and trying to bite you. Huss should be grabbed by the tail and hook trace and lifted, and thornbacks and other rays the same, though use a gloved hand to grab the tail on these.


The priority when landing both boat and shore fish is make sure that they cannot thrash around and injure themselves. You'll find all fish become subdued if you cover their eyes with a damp cloth.

Fish have a protective coating of mucus or slime on the body that is a safeguard from infection, and by handling the fish with a damp cloth or wet hands, this slimy coating is left intact. Handle a fish with normal dry hands and some of that coating will adhere to the hands and leave the fish open to attack.

Some thinking shore anglers have taken to using a large piece of chamois leather, or a coarse fisher's pike\carp bag to lay the fish on whilst the hook is freed. This does less damage than laying the fish down on the sand or shingle.

To see some anglers perform when actually handling a fish makes you wonder why their fishing in the first place, such is their fear of fish. A confident, but gentle grip is essential for clean unhooking. Round fish should be gripped between thumb and fingers over the head and just to the rear of the gill plates. This allows the hand gripping the fish full manoeuvrability.

Dogfish, having that habit of twisting their abrasive tail around your arm, should be held by folding the tail round to touch their head and gripped so for unhooking. Silver eels, there is no easy way, but use a piece of damp chamois leather to grip the main body and gently grip the head between index, middle finger and third finger.


The best tool for all hook removal in smaller species is a pair of quality long nosed pliers. Use these every time, because they're far quicker than your fingers for anything other than a light lip hook hold. For tope, shark, rays etc, a long handled pair of normal pliers are good and keep the hands away from any teeth.

The best place to grip a hook is not on the shank, but in the middle of the bend where gentle, but persistent pressure away from the hook hold will lift the hook point free. Twisting the hook does no good at all. If a fish has pulled the hook point fully through the lip, then it's quicker to snip the hook trace off above the hook, and pull the hook through point first followed by the shank.

If a flatfish has got a hook down deep, then it's best to cut the hook off at the knot and free the fish with the hook still in. Consider that flatfish, in fact all fish, will eat broken mussel and razorfish shells and hard backed crab with ease, and you realise just how insignificant a hook is to a fish. Evidence suggests that fish can shed a hook within hours anyway, providing it is a bronze pattern and will corrode. Coated or commercially plated pattern hooks and stainless steel hooks should never be used.

A few inconsiderate anglers persist in throwing unwanted fish back into the water. Some fish like, pout, poor cod, whiting etc, can be damaged this way. The correct method is to walk into water at least a foot deep and preferably beyond the surf if possible, support the fish in the open palms of the hand along the belly and tail facing into the oncoming water, and simply hold it there until it swims away. It takes only a few seconds before the fish readjusts itself and is gone.

Watch out for dogfish which have a habit of swimming back inwards towards you after release. If you walk them out into deeper water this will not occur. Likewise pout!

Rock marks often sees the angler many feet from the water and returning fish like wrasse and pollack needs a different approach. Here, you use any available rock pools that are deep enough and near the low water line to leave the fish in until the flooding tide frees them. They come to no harm and even big fish like huss and conger will stay dormant and patient until the tide arrives.

The boat is the same. Dropping a fish overboard should be avoided. Hold the fish by the tail and pectoral or dorsal fin in the case of tope, smoothounds and the like, or with the open palm supporting the belly with round fish, and just lower it into the water and hold it until it voluntarily swims away of it's own free will. The head should again point into the oncoming tide, ie, towards the bow. This applies to small fish like whiting too, that need to be placed in the water on return, not dropped!


If you want to retain fish alive for photographs or weighing, then place them in rock pools, or in a 5 gallon plastic bucket that has fresh sea water changed frequently.

Mustad have introduced a barbless hook based on the Viking pattern but redesigned for tope and ray fishing. This hook, numbered 79514, is being used for all manner of fish now including blue sharks, huss, smoothounds and small conger eels.

When fishing purely for fun, such as when tope fishing, breaming, after rays, or when dogfish are being caught in numbers, if you're using a standard barbed hook, pinch the barbs on your hooks flat. You'll find you lose very few fish but unhooking them is easy.

If you lay an eel on the beach prior to unhooking it will roll up into a slimy ball, but if you hold the hook trace and lift the eel into mid air it will unroll itself and fall straight for ease of handling.

Live Bait

You've no doubt experienced the scenario on more than one occasion: It's a picture-perfect day on the water. The first five casts in your favorite fishing spot has produced three nice 3-4 lb. speckled trout. But despite repetitious efforts, your lures fail to produce any further results. The fish have simply stopped hitting just as fast as they started.

This prompts you to wonder whether you spooked the fish, or was that the last of them? Those questions are soon squelched as you noticed the boat next to you pulling in trout as fast as their lines hit the water. Upon careful observation your crew finds they're using live bait. With all eyes fixed on the steady action, and realizing mutiny could break out at any moment, you decide it's best to leave the antagonizing scene.

Although it's an arguable matter whether live bait catches more fish than artificials, it's something to consider when the most successful guides won't leave the dock without it. This is because they realize that live bait attracts more, and bigger, fish, which in turn draws more customers.

As is generally known, specks have an assortment of marine life in their diet. But the age of the fish can dictate its preference, such as younger specks choosing shrimp, and the larger ones choosing bait fish. This, of course is a general rule. An example to the contrary is during spring when large trout infiltrate the coastal waters to waylay shrimp.

Adroit surf and bay anglers have often resorted to live minnows or shrimp to catch trout under three pounds. While on the other hand, live baitfish like croaker, mullet, pinfish and porgies (menhaden) are used to catch the larger, yellow-mouth trout up to 9 pounds in offshore waters.

Among the factors that discourage some anglers from using live bait are the lack of availability, too time consuming to catch and the necessity for an aeration system. While these reasons may seem legitimate, benefits far out weigh the obstacles once you know the facts.

Basically there are four methods to obtain live bait, but obviously purchasing it from a bait shop is the simplest. Most find cocahoe minnows to be more readily available through vendors than live shrimp, at least in southeast Louisiana. And, mostly only where competition for patrons is high are you likely to find live shrimp offered at all.

Out of all baitfish, the cocahoe is most highly prized due to its stamina and effectiveness in catching fish. They can be easily caught with a minnow trap placed in a pond or marsh ditch. To lure the minnows into the trap many baits work well, but crushed crab or a can of dog food with holes punched into it is hard to beat. These minnows can also be caught at night with a long-handled bait net used along roadside ditches or launch areas.

porgynet.jpg (46542 bytes)Trawl nets are also used to catch various baits like croaker, pinfish, mullet, porgies and shrimp, but one must limit the trawling time to no more than 10-15 minutes or the bait may drown or become too damaged to keep alive. Often two 10-15 minute drags can yield enough bait for a whole day's trip, if the drags are made around the mouths of canals leading into main bodies of water.

A more convenient an hassle-free method to catch bait is with the use of a cast net. True it does take some practice to master, but once accomplished it can be very productive.

After learning to cast the net, the next thing to learn is where to cast. Along thecastnet.jpg (34415 bytes) Louisiana Gulf coast many dams, ditches and weirs leading from estuaries into salt and brackish water abound throughout. These are the places to focus in on for bait, especially during falling tides. Care must be exercised so as not to get snagged on any part of the dam structure or on any debris that might lie below. Casting in unsure areas has been the cause of many a damaged or lost net.

Much bait can also be caught during the night and early morning darkness where lights illuminate the water around camp sites, piers and launches. Sometimes one or two casts is all it takes in these areas to fill the well with a variety of baits.

One thing you want to be sure of is to catch or purchase enough bait for all aboard. Not having enough live bait can be almost as frustrating as not having it at all. It's good to figure about 30-40 baits per angler, per day when going after trout and reds.

After you have obtained the bait by whatever method, you will have to make sure they stay alive and frisky. This is where properly aerated bait well comes to play. Best suited for this are containers constructed without corners so the bait can swim smoothly along without crowding. Likewise, choose an aeration system that employs water circulation from outside and pumps that are not contained in the tank.

These factors are critical in that it will make the difference in how long the bait will survive. The importance of water temperature and freshly circulated outside water can't be overly emphasized. Tanks with built-in pumps naturally generate too much heat which rob the water of its retention to oxygenate, a factor detrimental to the bait. Also, live bait produces waste matter which is discharged into the water. If this is not alleviated through outside circulation the bait will be short lived as well.

Different baits are more susceptible to the variables than others. Porgies, for example, are great for catching all sorts of fish, but they are very delicate and difficult to keep alive. This is where the live bait system previously mentioned is best; and logically with anything that's "best", it's more expensive.

A less expensive alternative is the 12 volt air pump system with aeration ring. It too works very well on delicate baits. This type of system has an air pump that mounts outside the tank with a flexible air hose running to a large aeration ring located at the bottom of the bait well. This system works on the same principle used for indoor aquariums and is the simplest and best system for the frugal. The only thing you have to periodically do with this system is manually drain off water and add outside water with a bucket to clean out waste matter. A note of caution, however, make sure the same type water the bait thrives in is used. For example, don't dump freshwater into a saltwater environment and visa versa.

Another efficient 12 volt aerator system is the impeller type which incorporates a spinning blade at the bottom of a plastic tube housing. The motor is at the top of the tube out of the water and the impeller blades are driven by way of a thin, solid shaft.

The only pitfall about this system is that shrimp fellers can collect around the impeller shaft and/or blades despite filter cage protection . This usually does not present an immediate problem, but you do have to clean them off after each use or the blade may not properly aerate the water.

Some other factors to keep in mind to preserve the life of your bait are don't mix live shrimp with baitfish unless a separator is installed, don't dump ice into the tank, and always use a dip net to retrieve the baits.

Mixing live shrimp with bait fish is like putting a cat and dog in the same box, they are natural enemies. What happens is the shrimp will continuously stick the bait fish with their horn in this inescapable confinement as often as they make contact, eventually killing them.

To dump ice into a bait well and or retrieve the bait with your hands can also be an expensive mistake. Many forget that chlorine, human oils and salt, and sun lotions are chemicals that can be very poisonous to delicate aquatic life. If you find a need to cool the water temperature, add sealed containers of ice or frozen gel-packs.

Basically, there are two methods most often used when fishing for specks and reds or any other panfish with live bait. The first method is in shallow water along reefs where various type corks are used to suspend the bait below the water. Corks such as weighted or non-weighted popping, clicking or sliding work well depending on what effect you want to achieve.

Clicking corks are particularly useful to simulate the fish-attracting sound of jumping shrimp. Two such corks are the Mansfield Mauler or Cajun Thunder, constructed of a narrow floater with a metal rod with plastic beads on each end.

The Mansfield Mauler was developed in Texas and has become popular throughout the Gulf Coast due to its effectiveness. Other cork designs that work well are the hollow plastic versions with internal metal beads for rattling.

The other two corks, popping and sliding, have two different functions. The popping cork mimics a deep gulping sound of a fish hitting bait on the surface, simultaneously producing a water spray. This water spray gives the effect of fleeing baitfish on the surface.

The sliding cork is probably less popular than all the other corks, yet it is unique in that it allows baits to be suspended in unlimited depths while allowing ease of cast. This cork is designed with a hole through the center and is more of a bulky type floater than the others.

Rigging the sliding cork takes a little more effort than snapping a popping cork to the line. With the sliding cork, in sequence assembly is a must. First slide the plastic bead that comes with the cork up the fishing line followed by the cork. Next slide an egg sinker of appropriate weight (no less than 1 oz.) up the line and tie a no. 5 barrel swivel to the end of the line. After that, make a mono leader of 2 feet and tie one end to the swivel and the other to a hook. To set the depth you want to fish, simply tie a small piece of rubber band around the fishing line at any place above the bead and trim excess ends. After the cast is completed, it will be necessary to feed extra line out from the reel. This will allow the line to pass through the cork only until the rubber band and bead contact the cork, stopping the line at the preset depth.

When fishing larger live bait fish, use a Kahle Horizontal hook in the 2/0 -4/0 size, keeping in mind you want the bait to swim with less weight as possible while not sacrificing hooking efficiency. On smaller baitfish and live shrimp, use a no. 4 treble hook. Line in the 12-20 lb. test is sufficient with the hook tied directly to the line without any other hardware.

Placement of the hook in both shrimp and baitfish is important if you want them to stay alive and swim naturally. On bait fish, place the hook through the upper lip, passing it ahead of its eyes. Don't place the hook behind the eyes or through the eyes as this will kill the bait. In some cases if the baitfish is large, place the hook through its back, below the dorsal fin. On shrimp, place the hook behind the base of its horn.

When fishing offshore waters in deeper ranges, like around oil platforms, a second method is used to get the bait down to the bottom. This method is especially productive when fishing for large trout.

To make this rig tie a hook to an 18 inch piece of 20 lb. mono and on the opposite end tie a no. 5 barrel swivel. Slide an egg sinker up the fishing line, and tie the line to the swivel. Use only enough weight to get the line down. Too much weight or other unnecessary hardware along the line must be avoided or this will hinder the baits movement.

After making the cast, allow enough line to carry the bait down to the bottom. Once contact is made there, reel in line just enough to feel the weight. If after a few minutes no strike occurs, feed a little more line out from the reel so the bait has more room to swim. This will allow the bait more range to move off the bottom, possibly placing it in a more conspicuous area.

Like many professional guides, you too can increase your catch with the use of live bait - don't go fishing without it!
Fishing Information,fishing tips,fishing tools ,destination fishing vacation,seafood and altogether about fish.Maklumat Memancing,Tip-tip Memancing ,Alat-alat Memancing ,Destinasi Percutian Memancing ,Makanan Laut dan Keseluruhannya Tentang Pancing dan Ikan.

Popular Posts