Have you ever caught a fish you swear you just released? It had the same spot configuration near the left gill plate or a misshapen pectoral fin.

It’s a unique experience, one that is rewarding to those who take heart in seeing the proof that catch and release actually works. For the past several decades, catch and release has gained global momentum as fishermen began to realize their actions directly impact the sport they love. Pioneers like Lee Wulff understood the link between the beautiful salmon he caught and each fish’s importance to the surrounding ecosystem. In his 1939 book “Handbook of Freshwater Fishing,” Wulff laid the groundwork for modern-day catch and release: “Game fish are too valuable to be caught only once.”

The concept of altering tackle and playing a fish quickly and efficiently to release it so it can reproduce and perhaps be caught again is now a rallying cry for sustainable fisheries management. As fishermen on the front lines, we are in a position to make a difference while still pursuing the sport we love.

Choosing the right tackle and knowing how to play and release a fish without overstressing it are critical to catch and release.

The GreenFish mission is to advocate sustainable fisheries and practices. Catch and release is one of the best tools we have to achieve that mission. That said, occasionally keeping a fish to share with family or friends is certainly fine. Our hope is that all fishermen who take a rod and reel in hand understand the consequences of their actions, whether keeping or releasing a fish.

Here are a few resources that discuss catch and release in more detail:

National Park Service: Catch and Release brochure

Sea Grant Rhode Island Fact Sheet: Catch and Release Fishing

Florida Sea Grant: Catch and Release Fishing

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: Careful Catch and Release Brochure