written by TheRockyRiver.com staff
If you pride yourself on catch and release, we applaud you. If you find yourself holding a trout up vertically before releasing it, we insist you read this short article, as you may be releasing a “dead-fish-swimming.”
Talk to 1,000 catch and release fishermen, and you might talk to 150 or 200 that see nothing wrong with holding a large fish up by the gill plates for a photo before releasing it. While that may not be the majority of the sampling, it remains a huge number when factored exponentially across the planet. Perform a quick Internet search on the topic, and the results will display several hundred pages of websites and forums that continue to debate whether or not this particular hold harms the fish.
Let us clear it up for everyone in three words – it’s not good.
For one, holding a trout, steelhead, or salmon (which are designed to spend life positioned horizontally) puts abnormal pressure on the organs and skeletal structure, even if just a brief moment. The bigger the fish, the higher the risk of permanent damage to the face and gill plate, simply due to gravity pulling harder as the fish gets heavier. (Imagine someone putting a finger in each of your nostrils and lifting you off the ground for 10 or 15 seconds.) Additionally, if the fish, which lacks common sense, then attempts escape and shakes its body while being held up vertically by the gills, the risk of severe damage to the gill plate and body is essentially a given – especially if the fish is dropped.
And we haven’t even covered the actual gills (the precious ‘red stuff’ inside the gill plates) yet.