Fishing safety - What you must know to keep fish safe from injury
By Fishing your way, Feb 14 2017 04:57PM
Whether you are new to fishing or an experienced angler, it is vital that you make sure your fish safety is of the highest level. Being a beginner is a totally acceptable reason for not catching fish or for not knowing fishing techniques, but there is simply no excuse for a lack in knowledge causing suffering to these amazing animals. So after that stern introduction, here is a simple guide to getting it right!
Fish Safety Step 1
Thoroughly read the rules of the lake that you are fishing. This will tell you what lb lines, hook sizes, fishing techniques and other general fishing tackle you are allowed to use. Keep to this!
Fish Safety Step 2
Before your first cast make sure the fish unhooking situation is set-up. DO NOT cast out and then put your landing net together. Your fishing situation MUST include the minimum of:
a) A big landing net, realistically it has to be big enough to land the biggest fish in the lake without the fish having to bend its' body to fit. 42" landing net is a great size to go with. You ideally want a landing net handle that is a minimum of 6ft long, and made from carbon to keep it strong. Have the landing net placed within arms-length of the fishing rods.
b) An unhooking mat or carp cradle. The unhooking mat needs to be well padded and huge. The bigger the better. I have seen anglers catching double figured fish on the smallest unhooking mats... Unacceptable. Make sure the unhooking mat is on a flat piece of land. Pin the mat to the floor with a bivvy peg or 2 so it doesn't get blown away. If you can, position the mat out of direct sunlight.
c) A bucket of LAKE WATER next to the unhooking mat. When the fish is on the mat their bodies become dehydrated very quickly, you need to make sure the mat is wet and the fish gets plenty of water poured on it whilst it is out of the lake.
d) Forceps next to the unhooking mat. Sometimes the hook hold requires a delicate approach, do not force the hook out when forceps can give you the safest angle to remove the fishing hook.
e) It is optional but a decent sized sling is the safest way to transport the fish from the lake to the unhooking mat and back again. We strongly disagree with unhooking the fish whilst it is in the net in the water for the simple reason that you have less control over the unhooking process and can therefore cause damage to the fish.
Fish Safety Step 3
Landing the fish. DO NOT force the fish into the net. 'Play' the fish and use a modern reel that can stand up to a longer fight. When catching bigger fish you need to make sure you have strong enough fishing tackle. You do need to allow the fish to become slightly fatigued before it will go into the net. The front of the landing net should be lowered about 1 - 2 feet under the water and the fish should be brought to the net. DO NOT chase the fish with the landing net. Once the ENTIRE BODY of the fish is over the lip of the front of the landing net you can very gently lift the landing net, it only need to clear a few inches above the surface of the water, the fishes natural instinct will be to dive down into the net. At this point you need to IMMEDIATELY slacken your fishing line to zero tension.
Fish Safety Step 4
This step is so important and is where lots of injuries occur to the fish, particularly heavy carp. Disconnect the landing net from the landing net handle and roll the landing net down towards the carp as if rolling up a newspaper. Leave a minimum gap of 1 foot between the carp's body and the rolled net section. GET THIS BIT RIGHT! Kneel down, yes on your knees so you can get one hand into the water. You MUST ensure that the carp's pectoral fin is laid flat against its body and not out to the side or forwards. By putting your hand in the water on the outside of the landing net, run your hand along the body of the carp carefully and ensure the pectoral fin is flat to the body. Basically the carp should feel smooth all the way along. As your hand reaches its tail and the fins are flat, raise the net so it begins to take the body weight of the fish. It is now safe to lift the carp, using 2 hands, from the water, and slowly walk it to the unhooking area. If you are using a sling then follow the same process, the net goes inside the sling first and then check the pectoral from outside the sling.
Fish Safety Step 5
Lower the carp onto the unhooking mat gently and kneel at the edge of the long side of the mat so you can take control of the unhooking situation. If the sun is beating down position your body so it shields the fish form the light, particularly its eyes, they can't blink. DO NOT walk away from the unhooking mat under any circumstance, even if your other rod starts beeping.
Fish Safety Step 6
Carefully remove the hook from the mouth of the fish. Don't rush this and don't force the fishing hook by panicking... the hook went in, it will come out. It's a very good idea to have a carp first aid kit to hand, it is at this point that you would use it. Just follow the instructions supplied in the pack. If the fish 'kicks' whilst on the mat simply place you hands over its head and body without pushing hard on it. Your natural instinct will guide you as to how to keep the fish on the mat. This is why big and thick unhooking mats are so important as the fish can do serious damage to itself and in some cases kill itself by the force of shaking it's head on a hard floor.
Fish Safety Final step
Repeat step 4, but instead of your hand going into the water it goes between the landing net / sling and the unhooking mat. When you lower the fish into the water, carefully release the fish from the net or sling. If the fish seems very tired then keep it in the net until it has had enough oxygen from the water pass through its body and then release it.
Until you have mastered this fishing technique do not even consider taking pictures, there is a whole section on handling fish for pictures to follow in due course. You can see a young angler learning how to hold a big carp for the very first time in our videos section. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x09xeaUIZrc
If you are very experienced with this process already why not educate the anglers where you fish when you see it is needed. Alternatively, print this page and put it on the notice board or your local venue.
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