Circle hooks are made so that the point is turned perpendicular to the shank to form a circular or oval shape. Other gear, such as venting tools or descending devices, can also be used to aid in the release of fish suffering the effects of barotrauma, which is the expansion of gases in the swim bladder when a fish is pulled up from depths greater than 50 feet.
Releasing a fish safely with minimal harm is key to helping it survive. Adopt just a few simple habits using proper handling techniques to help increase the survival rate of fish you release.
How-to Videos Handle and release sharks in a way that increases their chance of survival. Large species such as sharks, billfish and tarpon should be brought alongside the boat within 20 minutes of being hooked.
If you are consistently landing exhausted fish that require extensive efforts to resuscitate, consider using heavier tackle. Never hold on to or tow a fish not allowed to be harvested to a different location to weigh or measure it.
This minimizes handling time when determining whether you can keep the fish you caught. Use tackles heavy enough to bring the fish in quickly and avoid using multi-hook rigs or lures.
Capturing a catch on camera is a great way to share your experience with others and to create lasting memorabilia. It is okay to take a picture of a fish that is not allowed to be harvested while it’s in the process of being released, but it still must be let go immediately after.
A fish should not be held out of the water for long periods of time just for the purpose of taking a picture. Remember, when taking a picture of your catch, hold the fish horizontally and support its weight with both hands.
Fish that struggle intensely during capture are usually exhausted and stressed from the accumulation of excessive amounts of lactic acid in their muscles and blood. Circle hooks are designed so the point is turned perpendicular to the shank to form a circular or oval shape.
They are best used with natural bait (live or dead) and are 90% more likely to hook fish in the mouth instead of in the esophagus or stomach. And the less time you spend handling a fish and keeping it out of the water, the greater its chances of survival.
A pair of pliers or small hand crimped should work to flatten a hook’s barb. You’ll provide the greatest conservation benefit when you use barbless circle hooks that are non-offset and non-stainless steel.
Also cutting off one of the three points from the remaining sets of trebles makes it easier to recover the lure from the fish. Hooking tools come in a variety of shapes and sizes to fit the need of the angler.
Remember, even a pair of needle nose pliers is considered a hooking tool. If an angler is fishing from a boat with a high gunwale, the hooking tool may need to have a longer “shaft”.
If targeting fish with large teeth, spines or sharp barbs, use a long hooking tool to keep hands and fingers out of harm’s way. If the fish doesn't immediately swim away or it is lethargic or erratic, some “resuscitation” may be needed.
If the vessel is anchored, point the fish head-first into the current to gently force water through the mouth and over the gills. If the vessel is not anchored or there isn’t a current, hold the fish in the water alongside the boat and gently nudge the boat into gear, forcing water through the gills of the fish.
Fish that are caught in deep water and released may face additional challenges to survival. When fish are pulled up from deep water (typically depths greater than 50 feet), the change in pressure can cause the gas in the swim bladder to expand and in some cases burst.
Damage to the swim bladder or other internal organs that is caused by such change in pressure is called barotrauma. When a fish suffering from barotrauma is released, it is unable to swim back down to capture depth making it difficult to survive the elements and avoid predators.
Knives or an ice-pick are not venting tools because they do not allow the expanded gases to escape from inside the body. Gently hold the fish on its side and insert the needle into the body cavity at a 45-degree angle under a scale.
The area to insert the venting tool is approximately 1 to 2 inches behind the base of the pectoral fin. Venting helps release gases that may over-expand in the body cavity when fish are brought to the surface from deep water.
Remember to only use a venting tool or descending device when one or all of the signs of barotrauma are present. Although more research is being conducted, there are indications that use of descending devices can increase survival of released fish.
If you are unable to locate the device you want from a local store, you can also find various models for sale online or by clicking the following links: Roles,, These links are provided to help anglers find a descending device and do not constitute an endorsement of any product.
Mouth clamps are attached to a rod and reel and use a pressure sensor (releases fish automatically at a predetermined depth selected by the angler) or a weighted spring release mechanism (lets go of fish after the angler gives a sharp tug on the line). A fish elevator, such as an inverted milk crate with a rope attached to the top and weights at each corner, creates a bottomless cage which allows the gases to recompress while the fish is brought down to capture depth.
Learn about the tools available to treat barotrauma, a condition that occurs when fish are brought up from deep waters. Knowing how to and using venting tools and descending devices can help fish survive after being released.
Watch VideoExpand All | Collapse All Many of our most popular recreationally targeted species are regulated and sometimes must be returned to the water. Most anglers would agree that anything we can do to minimize harm to fish being released will benefit the resource in the long term.
They have helped to restore or sustain several valuable fisheries, including shook, red drum and spotted sea trout. As the number of anglers continues to grow, it becomes more important than ever to release those fish that cannot be harvested in as good a condition as possible.
Can identify most of the species commonly caught in their area and knows the current regulations for each. Protects habitat and wildlife by following safe boating practices such as knowing the waterways, keeping a slow wake when necessary, and poling through seagrass beds.
Keeps trash out of the water, disposing of monofilament fishing line, napkins, food containers and other waste in a proper receptacle ashore. Teach your children and inexperienced anglers these few simple procedures to help ensure abundant fish populations for the future.
All persons aboard a vessel harvesting reef fish must possess and use non-stainless steel non-offset circle hooks when using natural baits. These rules apply to all members of the reef fish complex including groupers, snappers, amber jacks, red porgy, gray trigger fish, black sea bass, golden tile fish, banded rudder fish, speckled hind and others.
Trot lines with 10 or fewer hooks are considered hook-and-line gear and must be tended at all times while deployed. Species identified with “T” cannot be harvested with multi-hooks (single hook with two or more points) in conjunction with natural baits.
Bully nets (for lobster only) no greater than 3 feet in diameter and not made of monofilament. Beach or haul seines measuring no larger than 500 square feet of mesh area, no larger than 2 inches stretched mesh size, not constructed of monofilament, and legibly marked at both ends with the harvester’s name and address if a Florida resident.
Non-residents using beach or haul seines for recreational purposes are required to have a commercial saltwater products license and legibly mark the seine at both ends with the harvester’s saltwater products license number. The use of power heads, explosives, chemicals or the discharge of firearms to kill or harvest marine life is prohibited in state waters.