By Capt. Tim Barefoot
I don’t want to sound like I disapprove of harvesting fish, but we should all do our best to use fish as a sustainable form of entertainment and food.
De-hookers and barbless or circle hooks minimize the time trauma for fish at boatside. I catch quite a few fish I want to release as healthy as possible due to size, creel limits and seasons, as well as fish that are heavy with roe. There are many ways to accomplish the release without ever touching the fish at all.
A quality de-hooker with a T handle provides full control of the fish and hook when using barbless circle hooks. With quite a few species, dozens of fish are caught per trip, and being able to take care of the smaller fish helps those fish survive to sexual maturity. Hopefully they’ll have at least one successful spawn, which ensures the future fishery.
There are other species like speckled trout that are effortless to release with a barbless jig hook. You can simply give trout slack line at the boat, and they will release themselves. Or just grab the jig head and barely push backward, allowing the trout to swim away without ever being touched.
Too may times, I’ve seen young or uninformed anglers struggle with fish at boatside. It’s even worse when a fish intended for release is hooked deep with a barbed jig or J hook. I try to be courteous and inform the angler on how to use the de-hooker and/or barbless hooks in the future.
Another way to reduce the possibility of deep hooking is to use more soft plastic baits. I’ve found that Gulp! baits work great with circle hooks, as well. Because they are impregnated with scent, fish tend to keep Gulp! baits in their mouths much longer than standard soft plastics. I’ve found that using Pro Cure Shrimp flavor on my soft plastic shrimp jigs has dramatically improved my catch.
All fish have great senses of smell and taste, and a bag of soft plastic baits typically smells or tastes like… plastic. This is the reason Pro Cure Shrimp is a no-brainer. Everything in the water eats a shrimp. I typically keep a shrimp tied on the jig rod, and a shrimp on the cork rod. Speaking of smell and taste, if you smoke, consider how the smell of cigarettes on you hands affects the smell of the soft plastics you use.
In closing, I’d like to encourage all the parents and role models out there to set a good example of how to properly release fish and how to use all the tools available to release fish as healthy as possible. Make your own videos to inform friends about how to accomplish this, or share some of my videos.
To see my videos, go to www.barefootcatsandtackle.com. For a look at the South Chatham Tackle Dehooker, see https//m.youtube.com/watch?v=99MFTHkdTVw&t=98s.