August 5 2020

“Revive and Release” – 6 Tips for Releasing Stripers

30  comments

Striped bass are tough creatures, but the strain put on a fish while being caught is intense.

Imagine you just ran a marathon, and then suddenly someone covered your mouth and you couldn't breathe. That might be what it's like for a striper.

That's why I feel it's really important to do everything in our power to catch and release stripers in the least harmful way possible - especially if fishing at the Cape Cod Canal.

By following the six tips outlined below, you will help ensure that the striper you just caught swims away alive and healthy.

These tips were adapted from information available on keepemwet.org and was originally published here on MFCC during August of 2018. 


1) Reduce Angling Duration

By landing a fish quickly and without playing it to exhaustion, you can dramatically reduce stress the fish incurs.

This can be achieved by ensuring you are using a 10-11ft rod rated for at least 5 ounces, paired with a reel that can hold at least 300 yards of 50lb braid.

Tighten your drag and get the bass in quick. 


2) Hold Stripers Over The Water

In the photo above, MFCC Derby winner Dane Wetmore did a good job holding the striper over the water (and not over land).

Stripers are slippery creatures and can easily be dropped. 

So when holding a fish, keep it in or slightly above the water - not over the rocks.

That way if dropped, it falls back into the water unharmed.


3) Consider Barbless Hooks

An easy way to increase the chances of a striped bass surviving after you catch it, is to crimp the barbs on hooks. 

Not only do barbless hooks cause less damage to a stripers’s mouth, but they are also much easier and quicker to remove - especially important when one ends up in your ear or finger!

Of course also keep in mind that you will lose more fish when you use hooks that do not have barbs. For me personally, I crush the barbs on my hooks whenever the fishing is "lights out". 

In other words, if I'm catching fish left and right, then I'm going to use barbless hooks. If the fishing is super slow and I might only get one or two bites a day, then I will most likely leave the barbs on.


4) Carry Hook Removal Devices

One thing I recommend all anglers always carry on them are needle nose pliers. Wearing your pliers on your hip, or having them somewhere else that is easily accessible, will make unhooking stripers much quicker and easier.

If you do not have a lot of experience handling striped bass, then I recommend using a fish grip, especially when using treble hooks. A fish grip tool can be very helpful for quick and safe hook removal.

I personally don't use a fish grip because I'm very comfortable and accustomed to handling stripers. Plus the tool can exert a lot of unnecessary pressure on a fish's jaw.


5) Photograph Wet Stripers & Hold Horizontally

Poor fish photography practices have been an area of concern ever since the rise of social media. This is particularly noticeable at the Cape Cod Canal, where anglers often catch huge photo-worthy stripers. 

It is certainly best to photograph wet stripers, and to hold the striper over the water. This way if you drop the fish it will land in the water, and not on dry sharp rocks, which is especially important at the canal.

If a fish is momentarily taken out of the water, keep it as close to the water as possible and fully submerge it between pictures to give the fish a quick breather.

Ideally, let the photographer call the shots – 1, 2, 3...raise the fish....and click.

Hold the fish horizontally and support the belly. Do not hold the fish vertically by the gills or by the jaw, as this can exert a lot of pressure on a big heavy fish.


6) Carefully Revive Stripers

Photo by @andrewburkepv

If a striper can not swim away on its own it may need reviving.

This can be done by submerging the fish and holding its head facing up-current so that the water runs in the mouth and through the gills. 

In still water situations, move the fish in a figure 8 pattern to simulate this effect. The striper will bite down on your thumb when it's ready to swim away. 


In Conclusion

By always looking to improve our fish handling practices, we can help ensure we do as little damage as possible and improve the fish's chances of survival.

I feel this is especially important for striped bass, because they are targeted so extensively by so many anglers along our coastlines.

What catch and release tips did I miss? Do you have any recommendations of your own? I'd love to hear them, so please let me know by leaving a comment below.

Tight lines! ?

  • Ryan – I’m really happy you are emphasizing good catch and release practices. Perhaps you could do a video on replacing treble hooks with single hooks for a variety of lure classes. I am currently struggling with some of my poppers, stick baits, and spoons to find appropriate single hooks that don’t change the action of the lure.

    Scott

  • I generally don’t use treble hooks. Lures with a single hook like bucktail jigs and soft plastics are effective and do less damage to the fish. I also try not remove the fish from the water before releasing.

  • Let a 45 inch go today in the canal. Had to revive. Seen so many not make it because anglers not following your tips. Great job need to get this out to the masses especially fishing canal. TR

  • Thanks Ryan, good info! I watched a guy yesterday scoop and chuck each fish onto the sandbar like he was afraid of the fish. I felt like it was a teachable moment but didn’t want him to take it the wrong way so I didn’t say anything. If your afraid of the fish your catching maybe find a new hobby? Any suggestions when landing fish in waste deep water, I know I struggle trying to keep my reel dry while releasing a fish. I already practice the things above but maybe I am missing something.

    • Hey Giles! Thanks for commenting!

      When landing a fish in waist deep water, I try to grab the leader and keep the fish an arm’s length away from me, while I tuck my rod and reel under my right arm pit. It’s a bit of a balancing act but it’s the best solution I’ve come up with. A fish grip can help a lot too, especially if you are using treble hooks.

  • Thank you for this information, Ryan.
    I live in the Northwest, and do most of my fishing for salmon and steelhead. The wild strains of these fish are endangered, so there are a lot of regulations to protect them. Barbless hooks are the rule. Though at times you can keep wild fish, often you can only keep fin-clipped hatchery fish, and you have to let wild ones go.
    All of your tips are great. In Oregon, when you see that the fish you’re landing is not fin-clipped, meaning it’s a wild fish, you’re not even supposed to take the fish out of the water while you remove the hook to release it. At worst, you should remove the fish from the water as little as possible. You can help a stunned or exhausted fish by grasping it by the tail and gently waving it back and forth in the water to help it get a little more water turbulence around it’s gills.
    Like wild salmon and steelhead, stripers are beautiful fish. I like to think that I owe them respect for the challenge and pleasure they give me in catching them, and I want them to be around for a long time for others to enjoy.
    Thanks again, Ryan.

  • Don’t take them out of the water, unless you intend to keep them. If removed from the water for a photo, support the stomach.

  • Good advice for freshwater as well. Most of these tips should be observed when fishing catch and release for any species.

  • Great reminders and for some new and important info, if we don’t work to preserve the species our kids won’t have the opportunity to enjoy fishing

  • Some tips we all need to follow and pass along. So many fisherman don’t know how to care for bass and preserve this precious resource.

  • Great info Ryan and well timed with all the fishing pressure at the Canal. I have always held the fish by the lip as well when reviving them prior to release. This is a great way when doing so from a boat or beach as you can completely submerge the fish as you are swishing them back and forth. I have recently discovered that When releasing from the edge of the Canal I prefer holding the fish just in front of the tail fin. This way the fish’s head and gills are in the deeper water and when the fish is ready you can just let them go and they are facing the right way to swim off. They will let you know they are ready with a big swish of their tail.
    The danger with this method is if the fish is not able to stay upright or ready to swim by themselves. Then you may release a fish from your grasp that turns over and floats away. Not good!!! Also you have to make sure that you have a secure hold on the fish until you are sure they are ready. I fish while wearing gloves which makes them less slippery.

  • You hit the nail on the head.
    I watch, way to many people in the ditch, crank em in, and just huck them back. All so they can possibly hook up again.
    Just takes an extra minute.
    Well said bro.

    • Very true Eddie. It really does just take a few extra minutes. We owe it to the fish to do everything we can to ensure they swim away in reasonable shape.

      Thanks for commenting and tight lines out there!

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