Inland Fisheries and Wildlife

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“Catch and Release” angling is a fisheries management technique designed to improve fishing quality by returning live fish to the water so that they may grow and mature, and be available again for multiple angling bouts. It is a management technique that is supported by many angling organizations and is utilized selectively nationwide by state and federal fisheries management agencies. “Catch and Release” is not an innocuous activity. Fishing’s adversarial nature causes some injury and mortality in fish. In this observational study, looking at lethal and sub-lethal effects of catch and release fishing on mature brook trout Salvelinus fontinalis, landlocked Atlantic salmon Salmo salar, and brown trout Salmo trutta., we attempted to identify quantitative characteristics useful in identifying what effect a “catch and release” fall angling season might have on salmonid broodfish. One hundred two fish were individually floy tagged, released into a holding area, and angled over an 8-week period. Hooking mortality for brook trout was 11%. The relative risk of death after hooking was 2.37x. Hooking mortality for salmon and brown trout was zero. Egg quality and embryo survival of hooked fish was less than 10%. There were no visible gross fish quality measurements differences between hooked fish and not hooked fish. In fact, overall fish quality improved. However, hooked fish were 3.27x more likely than not hooked fish to have skin injuries visible on histology sections. Additionally, nearly all fish had lesions in kidney, pancreas, and liver tissues. These lesions, although due to spawning stress rather than angling, make them poor candidates for survival of multiple stressful events, such as “catch and release” angling at this time of the year.



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