What is Catch and Release?

Catch and Release angling refers to a practice of fishing whereby a fish is caught, and then released back into the water in an unharmed condition. The fish is therefore able to continue its life, which in turn keeps the natural environment in a healthy state. The fish does not need to ever leave the water, or if it does to have the hook removed it will only be for a very short length of time.


Why practice Catch and Release angling?

  • The fish may be smaller than the legal minimum landing size making the release of your catch back into its natural habitat compulsory.
  • It is recommended for conservation.
  • The species of fish caught may not be one that the angler wishes to eat.
  • If carefully and safely returned fish stocks are able to become healthier.
  • You allow other anglers the chance to enjoy the same moment as you.
  • There is a vital relationship between angling and conservation and habitat improvement.


Survival rates from Catch and Release

Naturally the rate of survival varies hugely depending on factors such as species, handling and fishing methods, which makes it imperative that the angler practices Catch and Release as efficiently and as effectively as possible. It has been proven that mackerel do not do well once returned to the water, however species such as bass, mullet and salmon have a very high survival rate after being caught and returned safely.


Catch and Release when Coarse Angling

Mark Everard states in his book Britains Freshwater Fisheries: “Marking the transition of angling from a means of gathering food to a recreational activity informed by stock conservation concerns, catch-and-release fishing has become widespread. Coarse fisheries have been generally run on a catch-and-release basis for many years, at least since the Second World War, but this ethos has been slower to take root in game angling.”

Practising Catch and Release allows the coarse fish to continue with its life cycle, and for females to spawn. When, for example, carp spawn it is the bigger carp that act as predators and suck down the eggs resulting in their reproductive success rate being low. Releasing the fish successfully therefore allows the fish species population to grow and remain healthy.


The Prevention of killing wild salmon in Scotland

The Scottish Government has introduced new measures to ensure fishing for Salmon is sustainable in the future. Stopping the exploitation of the rivers in Scotland and improving their conservation status is more important now than ever before. The Government’s regulations state that:

  • Killing beyond estuary limits will be prohibited for three years due to the mixed stock nature of the fishery and limited data on the composition of the catch
  • The killing of Atlantic salmon in inland waters will be managed on an annual basis by categorising fishery districts by their conservation status
  • A requirement to have a Conservation Plan irrespective of the conservation status
  • The introduction of carcass tagging for net-caught fish for areas in category 1 and 2 (including a separate Order covering the Tweed District). The costs for producing the tags will, in the first instance, be subsumed by Marine Scotland (further information on the detail of the scheme can be found in the guidance note)

Over the last year Scottish Government has conducted a series of linked consultations on proposals to deliver such a kill licence system. These have identified a range of key stakeholder concerns; perhaps the most common theme has been the request for a straightforward, clear and consistent system which can be effectively managed with minimal additional bureaucracy and cost. Scottish Ministers have listened to, and acted upon, these concerns while still retaining the fundamental principle that any killing of wild salmon – a protected species – must be licensed, is sustainable and does not present a threat to vulnerable stocks.

More information on wild salmon in Scotland can be found here.


Catch and Release Techniques

It is fundamental that all anglers practice Catch and Release properly in order to make it effective. Following conservation-minded steps will dramatically improve the species chances of survival, and help protect fish populations.

Steps taken to improve catch and release:

  1. Careful tackle selection
  2. Plan what equipment to take
  3. Play the fish quickly
  4. Use correct fish handling methods
  5. Keep the fish in the water
  6. Avoid touching the gills
  7. Hold the fish until it has returned to a healthy state
  8. Let the fish swim off using its own energy and power