To release a fish, keep it in the water if you can. Handle the fish as little as possible and avoid holding with
dry hands to prevent removal of protective slime coating. Don't let the fish bounce on the boat deck, carpet or on shoreline
rocks and gravel.
If it's a fish without sharp teeth like a bass, hold its lower lip between your thumb and
index finger. Hold them vertically and support large fish with a hand under the belly. Grasp toothy fish (such as walleye
or northern pike) across the back of the head, with fingers and thumb holding gill plates closed. Watch out for sharp edges
and if you must hold a fish by putting your hand through the gill opening, avoid touching delicate gill filaments.
Don't keep a fish out of water longer than you can hold your breath and never tear a hook out. This can harm the
fish and it may not live. If the fish is hooked deeply and you can't easily remove the hook, cut the line to release the fish.
The hook will rust, dissolve, or become loose without harming the fish.
Make your own hook remover!
If you are using bait or lures that are frequently swallowed and deep hooking is likely to be a problem, use barbless
hooks. Unhooking your catch with barbless hooks is faster, easier and healthier for the fish.
If a fish loses consciousness,
try to revive it by gently moving it forward and backward so water moves through its gills. When the fish begins to struggle
and can swim, let it go.