From the second they’re hooked to the moment of release, fish experience some level of stress. This stress can cause negative health effects such as diminished ability to avoid predators, reduced reproductive success, and delayed mortality related to disease - even if a fish vigorously swims away. While stressing fish is an unavoidable aspect of fishing, you can dramatically reduce this stress by following the keepemwet principles:
PRINCIPLE 1: Minimize air Exposure
Just like humans, fish experience exercise-induced stress causing them to tire and have diminished muscle function. In order to recover from being caught, fish need to be in the water so they can breathe and pump oxygen into their system.
Holding a fish out of the water prevents recovery and can lead to death if done for too long. Even shorter durations (as little as 10-20 seconds for some species) can have serious effects on short-term and long-term fish health.
You can reduce these health effects by keeping a fish’s mouth and gills fully submerged in the water as much as possible during handling.
PRINCIPLE 2: ELIMINATE CONTACT WITH DRY SURFACES
Our founding principle, eliminate contact with dry surfaces. Fish have a layer of protective mucus (“slime”) that protects them from diseases. Contact with dry surfaces, whether they are hands, grass, boat bottoms, etc, can remove this protective slime and make fish more susceptible to diseases. Additionally, if placed on a dry surface, there is an increased likelihood that a fish could injure itself by thrashing around on streamside rocks or the bottom of the boat.
You should try to do the following:
1. Land fish in the water
2. Wet you hands prior to handling fish
3. Hold fish in or slightly above the water, away from dry or hard surfaces
PRINCIPLE 3: REDUCE HANDLING
Generally the less a fish is handled, the better, so you should prepare in advance and take extra steps to minimize handling time. Measures like fishing barbless hooks, having tools easily accessible, and many of the other keepemwet tips help reduce handling and help you return fish to their natural environment more quickly.
Be sure to check out these tips to learn some simple easy ways to accomplish all three keepemwet principles.