Tony Sindt, a fisheries specialist with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, offers up a few tips for handling big fish like sturgeon, catfish, and musky.
Handling Big Fish
There are a few things you can do as an angler to help maximize the probability of the fish surviving after being released. These tips apply to all big fish including large northern pike, musky, sturgeon, and catfish.
The first thing you can do as an angler is to have the proper equipment. This includes angering gear and releasing tools. When targeting large fish you want to make sure you are using a rod, line, and reel adequate for the size of fish being caught.
You’ll want to have a large net, as well as the appropriate releasing tools like pliers.
The second and probably most important tip when handling big fish is to minimize the amount of time the fish spends out of the water.
Unhook the fish while it is still in the net. Have a camera set up and ready to go before you take the fish out of the water. The goal should be to get the fish back into the water as quickly as possible.
The last tip has to deal with how you should actually handle the fish. In order to protect the fishes slime coat, you want to handle the fish with wet hands and avoid setting them onto the carpet of a boat or in the mud/sand on the shoreline.
You also want to hold the fish horizontal supporting the weight. Holding larger fish vertically by the jar puts a lot of strain on the lower jar and damages the muscles and connective tissues.
Utilize these tips when handling big fish to help increase the likelihood of survival after being released.