How to Release a Fish

Three tips for safely handling fish.

If you’re not planning on killing a fish you catch, know that mishandling it could kill it anyway. Here are three ways to handle a fish you plan to release.

1. Hold It Horizontally
Lifting a fish out of the water by its lip places undue stress on its jaw and internal organs. If you want a picture, hold one hand under its belly and hold it horizontally while someone snaps. Plan in advance so that you can limit air exposure to 30 seconds.

2. Keep It in the Water
It's best not to take the fish out of the water at all. We suggest you try landing a bigger fish in a device like a muskie cradle, which will keep it subdued yet still in the water. And if you do take it out temporarily, its entire body will be supported, preventing damage to the internal organs.

3. Save the Slime
If you do bring it overboard, handle the fish with a wet glove or damp towel to avoid removing the protective slime from its skin. Covering a large fish's eyes with a wet towel will also help keep it calm for hook removal.