In the past few weeks, a number of letters to the editor have exaggerated the mortality of fish caught and released. The fact is that if properly done, most fish caught and released by anglers survive.
That steelhead certainly survive was proven to me by Mike Whelpley and crew who one fall in the ’80s released more than a dozen fish after inserting radio tags the size of a man’s finger.
Mike tracked those fish all winter until they spawned the following spring.
Mortality rates for released fish have been studied for years. A review of 118 studies by the Ontario Natural Resources Ministry found an average mortality rate of 16 per cent for a number of species caught using a variety of angling methods including barbed hooks, bait, fly, etc.
In Idaho, a study on lake fishing found 20 per cent mortality for released rainbows. Warm water and the wrong kind of net (removed protective fish slime) contributed to this high rate.
Studies have found that deep throat and gill hooked fish had high mortalities so think about the type of gear you use and consider not using it if it results in this kind of hooking.
Studies done on river trout in the northwest U.S. found three per cent mortality in barbless fly or lure angling. Five percent was the figure for released salmon on the Dee River in Scotland. In Norway, the Animal Welfare Society found a mortality rate of zero to six percent in rivers.
Study after study shows that if released properly, fish survive, especially those in our cold water rivers.
To ensure the best results, play your fish rapidly, keep it in the water, and if deeply hooked, cut your leader, leaving the hook in place (it will eventually fall out). Catch and release is widely accepted by B.C. anglers.
The Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC states that, from a survey done in 2005, anglers in B.C. released 74 per cent of the 8,000,000 fish they caught.