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How to Release a Fish in Fly Fishing

| August 24, 2005

Fishing in Yosemite is one of my favorite things to do. To me there’s just something magical about standing in a river with a long stick and trying to put myself in the mindset of the fish not to mention all the wonderous and beautiful places I go in pursuit of the sport. has a great article on how to release a fish while avoiding injuring it. Most fly fishermen practice catch-and-release. There are some simple things you can do that will ensure that your fish will swim happily on its way once released.


1. Use a barbless hook, which is easier to remove. If your hooks have barbs, you can flatten them with needle-nose pliers.

2. Bring the fish in quickly rather than pulling it along rocks or letting it flop around in shallow water.

3. Handle the fish as little as possible. Fish have a protective mucous coating that is easily damaged.

4. Minimize the amount of time the fish is out of the water. Try to “land” the fish and remove the hook underwater.

5. Wet your hands before handling the fish and keep them away from the gills and eyes. If you bring the fish in with a net, make sure the net is both wet and made of a soft material that won’t scrape the fish.

6. Take the hook out by bending it back the way that it went in. Keep a pair of forceps in your vest and use them to get a better grip on the hook.

7. If your fish has swallowed the hook, it’s best to cut the line as close to the hook as you can and let it go. The hook will eventually dissolve, and trying to rip out the hook will do more damage than good.

8. Hold the fish by hand in the water by its mid-section until it can swim. Then just release your hand and it should swim away on its own. While holding the fish in the water, protect its spine by supporting its body from head to tail.

9. Consider that you may have to revive the fish if it exhausted itself during the fight. To do this, hold the fish in its swimming position facing upstream with your hands under it, gently moving it back and forth to get oxygen to its gills.

10. Be careful not to hold on to the fish too hard; when it tries to swim, let it go.

Give it a try. Fishing in Yosemite is something you’re not soon likely to forget. Remember, always practice ‘Catch and Release’ fishing. It’s worth it.

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About Loyd: For over 30 years I've enjoyed hiking, backpacking, fishing, photographing and exploring Yosemite and the Sierra Nevada. More About the Author. View author profile.

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