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Safe, Ethical Handling of Fish for Alaska Catch-and-Release

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There are a few forms or approaches to fishing out there, and one of the most well-known and common is known as catch-and-release fishing. As the name implies, this approach involves catching fish initially, but then releasing them either immediately or very soon after -- but what if you want to hold the fish briefly first, whether for pictures or some other purpose?

At Pybus Point Lodge, we're proud to offer a wide range of guided Alaskan fishing tours and related themes for all our clients. We assist with all your basic fishing needs, including safe and ethical handling of fish for those who want to pursue catch-and-release approaches and need to know how to hold fish during this process. What are some basic themes to remember as you're handling and eventually releasing fish? Here's a simple rundown.

Keep the Fish Wet

Throughout any processes you take with the fish following the catch, whether you're removing hooks and lures or taking pictures and measurements, it's crucial to keep the fish wet. The easiest way to do this is to hold the fish in water -- but if you're in a boat or on land, make sure that you place the fish in an ice slurry first.

This ensures that your catch stays healthy throughout its handling process, which can help ensure a successful release back into the wild. Removing the fish from water for too long will lead to the fish's scales drying out, which can make the fish more susceptible to predators and pathogens. And if they're left out for too long, fish will suffocate or sustain major internal injuries as a result.

Keep Your Hands Wet

Down similar lines, it's also important to keep your hands wet while handling fish. This helps avoid damage to the fish scales, which can again lead to serious health implications for the fish. When you're removing a hook, for example, make sure that you're lubricating both the process of removing the hook and your hands themselves with water.

If you don't have water readily available, you can also use saliva -- but try not to get too much on the fish, as this can lead to health problems down the line. On the flip side, never use a towel or cloth to hold the fish, as the fabrics here will remove the vital slime coat from their skin, which can also cause problems and complications for the fish's health.

Hold and Handle Gently

For any period of time where you're handling the fish, whether you're removing hooks or taking measurements, it's important to handle the fish gently. With larger species of fish, they may be bigger and heavier than you're used to -- but that doesn't mean their bones aren't easily damaged if handled roughly.

By keeping your hands and any equipment you use to hold the fish wet and using gentle pressure, you can avoid damaging the fish physically. Do not ever hold the fish by the gills, as this can lead to damage and health issues. Instead, keep the fish as level as possible with your hands, making sure that you're supporting its weight and not putting undue pressure on any one area.

Of course, if you should happen to mishandle a fish accidently -- or even moreso if it's intentional -- take care of what you can afterward. If you puncture a fish's skin, for example, you could expose the sensitive tissue inside to potential dangers like bacterial infections. One good way to help minimize such risks, as well as any pain or other lasting damage done to the fish, is to administer antibiotics in these situations immediately.

Support Assists

As we noted above, supporting the fish properly is vital if you plan to release it back into the water. For some, this means utilizing assists like a rubberized landing net or a cradling device to keep the fish level and stable while also keeping your hands free.

These assist equipment items can help make sure you don't injure the fish while holding it, but they can also assist in getting the fish into the water more smoothly after you've been handling it. Netting a fish isn't always enough to get it safely into the water, especially if you're landing it on a rocky or uneven surface, so these tools can be a big help.

Quick, Effective Removal of Hooks or Lures

Another important factor to consider if you're handling a fish before releasing it is how well you can remove hooks and lures. If a hook or other fishing tool has gotten ensnared in the fish's mouth, for example, you need to get that off quickly and effectively to avoid inflicting more damage -- but how?

First, gently pull back on the line to open the fish's mouth, using as little pressure as possible. Next, use needle-nose pliers or hemostats to grab the hook firmly without puncturing the fish's skin any further. Finally, twist the hook free and release the fish back into the water.

Once again, if the fish must be pulled from the water for this process, be sure to keep the fish level and support its weight as much as you can. This will help minimize pain or other injuries caused by your handling of the fish, in addition to protecting both you and the fish from any harm that could result during this process.

While catch-and-release fishing is a great way to keep fishing sustainable while also preserving fish populations, you still need to handle the fish with care if you hope to release it back into the water safely. By keeping your hands and any tools used wet, supporting the fish level while handling it, and removing hooks quickly and effectively, you can help ensure a safe and successful catch-and-release fishing experience for yourself -- and for the fish!

For more on this, or to learn about any of our all-inclusive Alaskan vacation packages and fishing tours, speak to the team at Pybus Point Lodge today.

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Discover why people like you can’t stop talking about Pybus Point Lodge. More than 30 years ago, the lodge opened as a simple fishing camp, drawing a devoted following in spite of basic accommodations. With new owners and experienced captains and crew, our corner of Alaska has become an unbeatable fishing and eco-tourism resort.

Andrea Tate

Incredible Experience!

Pybus Point Lodge has some of the most stunning scenery I’ve ever seen. I mean absolutely breathtaking! In addition to the amazing fishing, I hiked to a beautiful secluded lake, soaked in some hot pots, saw several waterfalls, went whale watching, saw bears and all kinds of wildlife and marine life. As a photographer, photographing a wedding under a waterfall will remain a highlight of my life.

Shirley Johnson

Pybus Point Lodge - WOW!

We had the best time! This was our first visit to Pybus, but it definitely will not be our last. The stunning scenery, amazing fishing experience, and the joy of meeting new friends – all outstanding! We did not want to leave!!! If you are thinking about this trip – don’t think any more, just book it. You will not regret it!!!

Sharon Hedding

Trip of a Lifetime!

We had such an amazing time the staff was so wonderful and the lodge was fantastic! capt Joe was so helpful and always doing what ever he could do to make each day special. a special thank you to both Scott and Jody for taking the time to make us feel like family. can't wait to go back next year

Jason Nielsen

Wonderful and Magical Place

We had an amazing business retreat to Pybus Point Lodge.  Everything was top notch... the fishing, the staff, the boat captains, the food, the accommodations, and especially the scenery. I really liked that Pybus took care of everything from start to finish. Chef John is an amazing cook. We had delicious hot meals the entire trip.  The cabins were amazing and very comfortable.  The fishing was awesome and that’s coming from a guy that doesn’t fish that much.

Brandon Foote

We brought home 100lbs of fish!

My wife and I spent a week at Pybus Point this Summer. We had a beautiful, private room overlooking the bay and our own new, ensuite, private bathroom. What an amazing place for couples to get away together. We set our own breakfast time, met our boat captain after, fished the day along, and returned to clean up and enjoy a nice dinner at the restaurant. Next time Alaska is on the trip list, Sherrie and I will go together, and it will be to Pybus Point!

Kent Danjanovich

Fun in Alaska

This was my first trip to Pybus Point. I stayed in one of their new cabins. The accommodations were incredible, the view onto the bay in the mornings was stunning. I loved the staff and the food was really very good. All of this and they have new boats to take you out onto fairly calm waters to fish. The fishing guides were great. Overall a great experience. Definitely going back.


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