By Bill Tong
When you catch a hawg, your heart is thumping. You can't think of anything but landing that fish, and when you do, you are excited. You lip the fish, reach for your phone, ask your buddy to take a few cool pictures, and then put the fish in the water, and watch it swim off. No harm done, right?
Unfortunately, holding a fish incorrectly can often increase the mortality rate of the fish after release, or also injuries that will stunt their growth.
Above: Never put a fish on the ground, even if it is grass.
Putting fish on the ground is a big no-no that unfortunately is very common, especially among inexperienced anglers. Fish naturally have a layer of slime on their scales, which you probably would have felt when you are trying to handle a fish. This slime helps protect them against parasites and helps their skin. When you put a fish on the ground, especially on dirt, the slime gets wiped out and the fish is vulnerable to diseases. It also stresses them out, which further weakens their immune system. Fish with damaged slime coats have a higher rate of mortality than those with intact slime coats after release, and those that survive are often weakened by opportunistic infections such as molds.
When lipping a fish, always make sure you hold the fish by the lower jaw while supporting it on the rear end. Always make sure the fish is horizontal, and you aren't putting too much stress on one part of the body. Holding a fish vertically, which most people done, can injure the jaw and impede hunting. Make sure you are never holding the fish for more than 30 seconds.
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