Releasing fish can help conserve their populations, but the process of capturing and handling fish also can result in injuries or death. These “discard effects” present a major conservation issue in recreational fisheries: even if the percentage of injuries and mortalities are relatively small, fisheries, where large numbers of fish are released, can have cumulative discard effects that impact the population. Fishing practices and gears that minimize hook injury, handling, and air exposure can considerably improve the chances for survival of released fish. In particular, efficient dehooking substantially reduces the physiological stress in fish that typically occurs during the landing and release process. Our study showed promising results for bite-shortened modified hook, which enabled anglers to land 91% of hooked spotted seatrout and then release 87% of those fish without direct handling.
· Short video showing the bite-shortened hook releasing from the fish in slow motion
· Short video demonstrating how to modify a standard hook to a bite-shortened hook
A proven and effective self-releasing hook could have broad conservation and management applications in recreational fisheries as a means to minimize or eliminate injuries and mortalities in catch-and-release fishing. A foreseeable use of self-releasing hooks could be to allow restricted fishing in sensitive fishing areas, such as no-take aquatic protected areas or areas experiencing unsustainable fishing pressure. Further research with different lures, species, and anglers can inform conservation strategies.