Guidance on “Catch and Release” techniques for the handling and release of Salmon and Sea Trout. If carefully handled, the prospects for survival and spawning are very high, and the increased numbers of fish which reach the redds make a valuable contribution at a time when there are so many threats to the salmon stocks in UK rivers. In the case of early-running stocks, it is important to remember to release males as well as females.
Guidance on the techniques for handling and release is widely available (including a leaflet produced by Marine Scotland, formally Fisheries Research Services, Aberdeen titled “Catch and Release: A guide to Best Practise”, which is summarised here for convenience.
Use small barbless hooks (flatten the barbs with pliers)
Single hooks are best, and the use of flies is preferable
Avoid using multi-hooked lures
Natural baits should be avoided
Playing the fish
Bring the fish in firmly and quickly to reduce the chances of severe exhaustion (the more exhausted a fish becomes, the lower are its chances of survival)
Use a breaking strain of line or cast that will allow the above
Where possible play the fish out of fast currents
Handling the fish
Keep the fish in the water. Fish should not be beached
Landing nets must be knotless mesh.
Wet your hands before touching the fish (On no account put your fingers under the gill covers)
Be gentle, do not grip the fish tightly
Remove the hook immediately and gently
If the fish is deep hooked, cut the line as close to the hook as possible
Reviving and releasing the fish
Do not weigh the fish – estimate the weight, a good estimate can be obtained from the fish’s length.
For photography – stand in the water – gently cradle the fish using both hands – and just lift the fish above the water surface for a few seconds
Support the fish gently and steadily in a current, facing upstream. Do not hold the fish too firmly
Be patient, and wait for the fish to recover
Let it swim away on its own when it is ready
Will the fish live?
Radio tracking of released fish has shown that over 80% of salmon, if carefully handled, survive to spawn successfully.