Ontario Fishing Network
Tools and Traits for Properly Releasing Muskie
Muskie fishing is one of the fastest growing areas in sport fishing today. Ask any long-time muskie angler if fishing pressure is increasing, or look at the growth of muskie lure manufacturers, and you'll be convinced that muskie fishing is on the rise. With more anglers pursuing these predators every year, the need for proper releasing techniques is crucial to ensure the survival of post-release fish and sustain the sport fishery.
The Right Tools and Gear
You will need the right tools to land and release these big predators. Opinions vary on the best device to land a muskie, but nets and cradles (large enough to comfortably hold, or pen, a muskie) are two popular options. You will also need tools to help cut and remove hooks from the fish's mouth, including: long-nosed pliers, hook cutters, jaw spreaders, and hook-removers. Remember, cutting hooks can be faster than removing them with pliers, but it is critical to remove all the hook pieces. Pieces left in the fish can lead to infection and, potentially, death.
Have the Knowledge
One of the best ways to learn is by doing. I'm thankful to the experienced anglers that I've fished, and continue to fish, with who have helped me learn how-to properly release fish. Joining a club like Muskies Canada or Muskies Inc. will connect you to a wealth of muskie information. Hiring a credible guide is another way to gain first-hand experience. Reading publications specific to muskie fishing and attending seminars at fishing shows are two other ways to boost your release know-how.
Confidence and Patience
Having a plan for playing and releasing fish, and keeping all tools needed within reach, reduces handling time and overall stress to the fish. Furthermore, a planned and properly executed process for landing, handling and releasing fish will ensure the fish is kept in the water as much as possible. Key to any successful release is keeping the fish (especially its head) in the water at all times, and only removing it for a quick photo if necessary. Some anglers let the fish recuperate in a net or cradle after the hooks are removed before handling the muskie again to take a picture. When photographing fish, a good rule of thumb is to hold your breath as you lift the fish out of the water. When you need to breathe, so does the fish and it should quickly be returned to the water to minimize harm.
Release methods for muskie can spark debate among anglers concerned with preserving the fishery. I've tried to stay clear of any controversial topics in this article, providing some best-practices for releasing muskies. Try these tips the next time your on the water for proper muskie releases.
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