Have you ever felt the terror of having your head underwater? Do you remember feeling out of breath when you surfaced? It took time to recover, didn’t it? But at least you did.
That can’t be said for a fish that is essentially drowning in midair as it poses for photo after photo by anglers, many of whom are increasingly seeking social media fame.
Death by Instagram. SMH.
Many of us have done this, probably unaware that gills exposed to the air too long, internal organs crushed by gravity, jaws damaged by hanging, or the protective mud from skin wiped off by dry hands can result in quick or slow death. As the late and great fisherman Lee Wulff once said, “game is too precious to be fished once”.
A fight of more than 15 minutes puts the fish in danger. I once failed to revive an 8 pound bonefish for a 4 pound angler after a 20 minute fight. I’ve also been prone to fishing with a friend who insisted on using a 4 weight fly rod for Florida bay rockfish in shallow 90 degree water, and the fish went belly up. I will never do that again.
Remember to leave your catch in the water at the edge of the boat. Jaw pliers are sufficient to remove the hook, but do not lift the fish by the jaw to weigh it. Instead, get your hands wet and support the fish under the head and belly. Make sure your partner has the camera ready. Lift the fish, take the hit, lower the fish and hold it supported until it can swim through your hands.
Rubber nets are useful for keeping a fish stable during unhooking – they do not strip slime from the skin. And remember to disassemble your hook with pliers. Leave a small bump, and this will normally hold the hook in place during combat.