Catch and Release for Atlantic Salmon

Introduction

Map of River Roe
Catch and release is one of a range of conservation measures being practised in a number of countries to reduce mortality in recreational fisheries
As a result of falling stocks of Atlantic salmon, catch and release is one of a range of conservation measures being practised in a number of countries to reduce mortality in recreational fisheries and allow additional numbers of salmon to spawn. Other conservation measures include:

  • bag limits
  • restrictions on fishing methods
  • limiting the angling season

In order for catch and release to be successful, salmon which have been caught by anglers and released, must survive in good condition until they have spawned. It is important therefore that guidelines for the practice of catch and release are followed to ensure the maximum chance of survival of released salmon. The following guidelines should greatly assist anglers the practice of catch and release in Ireland

Fishing Tackle

The angling method used can have a significant bearing on the survival rate of released salmon Anglers intent on releasing fish, or anglers fishing waters where a catch and release rule is in force. should carefully consider the angling method used. Salmon caught by fly fishing using single barbless hooks, have a greater chance of survival than fish caught on barbed hooks, Ireland hooks or lures with double or treble hooks.

Barbless hooks do less damage, are easier to remove and reduce handling time which can be in important factor influencing survival. Barbed hooks can have the barb pinched with a pliars to allow salmon to be released more easily. Where it is not possible to use barbless hooks, hooks used should preferably be single. The fishing tackle used should be strong enough to enable the fish to be brought in quickly. taking account of the prevailing conditions and the possible size of the fish that might be caught.

Playing the Fish

Playing a fish in the following way will help its chances of survival:

  • Avoid exhausting the fish
  • In a river, move the salmon out of the fast current into quieter water
  • Once the fish is subdued bring it quickly to the bank or boat
Landing the Fish

Research has shown that exposing a salmon to air for even a short period, for example to take a photograph, can significantly reduce its chances of survival.

Keep the salmon in the water at all times.
Use a large diatmeter landing net with soft knotless mesh
Avoid beaching the fish
No gaffs or tailers
Always handle the salmon with wet hands

Removing the Hook

Wet your hands and keep the fish in the water
Handling of the fish should be minimized
When necessary the fish should be supported from beneath and the hook gently removed either by hand or by means of long-nosed forceps
If a hook is deeply embedded and cannot be removed, the leader should be cut close to the hook, as fish released with the hook attached will generally survive
Take extra care with fresh fish, as they are more prone to scale loss, injury and subsequent fungal infection
Care must be taken not to squeeze the fish or hold it by the gills

Releasing and Reviving the Fish

After removing the hook or cutting the leader, the fish should be supported in the water facing into the current and given sufficient time to recover
Hold the fish gently until it is capable of swimming away strongly
Avoid weighing the fish
The weight can be estimated from its length using the conversion chart (below)

Weight/Length Conversion Chart

A tape measure or a wading stick can be used to take the approximate length while keeping the fish in the water
Unless compelled by statutory regulations or local rules, fish that have suffered serious damage (bleeding heavily, hooked in the gills or eyes) should be retained

Survival Chances of Released Salmon

Research has shown that the survival rate of salmon caught and released can he close to 100% when the above guidelines are followed
Survival rate is greater at water temperatures below 20 C.
Very good survival to spawning of released rod-caught spring Salmon, which have subsequently spent up to nine months in the river before spawning, has been recorded in Scotland
Spawning sucess and viability of eggs are unaffected in salmon caught and released in late autumn

Spring Salmon

Stocks of spring salmon are at an all time low across their North Atlantic range. Conservation is more important now than ever. Catch and Release can ensure that more salmon survive to spawn.