Catch and Release – A Fisherman’s Guide to Best Practice


Ensure your rod is strong enough to subdue a fish quickly 1 minute per pound weight is a reasonable suggestion for time for landing a fish. To avoid exhausting the fish it is prudent to use 15-20lb leader material where possible. Treble hooks are banned by law on the Kyle of Sutherland rivers but wherever possible try to use smaller, single hooks which cause less damage.

Plan ahead

Before fishing a pool, always identify where a fish can be safely landed with risk of damage on rocks or stones. If fishing alone, always take a knotless net. Have long-nosed forceps or a similar tool close to hand for prompt hook removal. If you plan to photograph your fish – you never know it may be a leviathan – have your camera ready and in a known place, the best being a neck cord.

Playing the fish

Fish should be played quickly and as firmly as possible so that they can be released before becoming too exhausted. Aim to move the fish out of the fast current with the angler’s position slightly below the fish which will shorten the playing time. It is preferable, especially on the Carron, to use a landing net but under all circumstances once the fish is subdued bring it quickly to the bank for hand or net for capture.

Landing the fish

Research has shown that exposing a salmon to air for even a short period, for example to take a photograph, can significantly reduce its chances of survival. Keep the salmon in the water at all times. Do not at any time lift a salmon up by the tail as this can damage the tendons in the tail of the fish. Later in the season as the salmon nears spawning time, lifting a salmon by the tail can cause the reproductive sacs to rupture into the body cavity which can kill the fish. At all times support its belly whilst handling the fish in the water and avoid taking them onto the bank or drag them over gravel and stones. Use a knotless mesh net which reduces damage to the fish’s scales. It is wise to avoid beaching the fish as this again can remove protective mucous and scales from the fish which can lead to fungal infection.
Always handle the salmon with wet hands, or put on soft cotton gloves which need to be wet, when removing the hook from the fish’s mouth or body if accidentally foul hooked. This prevents removing the fishes mucous which is the fish’s first line of defence against disease and parasites. Gently remove the hook either by hand or by means of long-nosed forceps or hook releasing tool. If a hook is deeply embedded and cannot be removed, the leader should be cut close to the hook, as fish released with the hook attached will generally survive.

Recording your fish

Under no circumstance should you lift your fish right out of the water. When photographing a fish keep it in, or briefly just above the water. Support it gently under the belly and loosely hold the wrist of the tail. Avoid weighing the fish if at all possible but, if you have to, then weigh the net with the fish enclosed in it, preferably with a weigh net. A tape measure or a marked off wading stick can be used to take the approximate length while keeping the fish in the water – there are charts available which can be used to formulate an estimated weight. Fish should be measure from the nose to the fork of the taiL.

The Release

The Release

Releasing and reviving the fish

After removing the hook, or cutting the leader ensure that the salmon is supported in the water, facing into the current to allow oxygen uptake by the fish’s gills. Give sufficient time to the fish for it to recover. Hold the fish gently until it is capable of swimming away strongly, you will know it is time when you feel it starting to pulse and kick softly. If you release the fish and it turns ‘belly up’ then quickly capture the fish and support it again for a while facing into the current to allow more oxygen to be absorbed. When the fish is being fought there is lactic acid produced in the muscle tissue which reduces oxygen and causes the muscles to function adequately.. Survival rate is greater at water temperatures below 20°C so be aware of the necessity to quickly subdue and return the fish during the summer months.

Bleeding fish

Even if a fish is bleed heavily, it can have a good chance of survival and if it is going to die from blood loss, it will do so very quickly. Fish should be allowed to recover and returned in steady clean water but not in a fast flow. Recovery may take some time. If fish are deep-hooked, particularly in the gills, it may not be possible to remove the hook – snip the line close to the hook which will cause less harm than removing it.

We hope that you enjoy your fishing on the River Carron.   We thank you for your support in our conservation policy and wish you TIGHT LINES.

The River Carron Proprietors.
October 2015

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