Tips for Releasing Muskies

Here's a great video put together by Utah's DNR about proper Catch and Release of Tigers. Click the photo below to play the video from YouTube.

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See the Muskies Inc Catch and Release Tips brochure by clicking the following link: Catch and Release Tips for Muskies.pdf

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A big thanks to Members of the Chapter and NMDGF for helping get this tri-fold completed. Now Tiger Muskies aren't the only species without an educational brochure for New Mexico! NM Muskies Inc will be funding the first print of these and then NMDGF will print a bunch for further distribution.

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1 .Preparation:

It’s VERY important to have all the proper tools available in your possession before heading out on the water. Tool suggestions would include long-nosed pliers, long wire or bolt cutters, hook-out, jaw spreaders, large landing net and/or cradle, floating ruler, camera, and a first aid kit near by just in case. 

2. Landing a Muskie:

Maintain constant pressure when reeling the fish in, keeping the rod tip down to prevent the fish from jumping and potentially throwing the bait. Play the fish to the point of submission, not to a state of exhaustion. A “green” muskie or fish that has not been played out can be extremely dangerous if landed too soon. Lead your fish into the net or a cradle head first. Leave the fish in the water where her body is supported. Next remove the hooks while the fish is still in the net. Use the small bolt cutters to cut any imbedded hooks that cannot be easily removed. (Rule) This hook removal process should be completed within 15 seconds. Once the lure and hooks are free and have been placed out of the way, the fish can now be lifted from the landing device for a quick photo. It is preferable to take photos of the fish held horizontal. (Note: If you are interested in photos for a magazine cover, take a quick “vertical” photo-fish remains held horizontal). For more on the hazards of holding fish vertically by the jaw see the MuskieU page. Lifting the fish from the water should never be done by placing the fingers/thumb in the fish’s eye sockets or squeezing the gills. The proper method would be the use of a tool such as a Boga Grip or placing the fingers BETWEEN the gill plate and the gills-sliding your index and middle fingers forward to where the gill plate and gills attach to the cartilage. Press the thumb against the lower jaw and lift gently and firmly. Watch carefully as the fish may begin to shake vigorously. Be careful so as not to drop the fish. It is important to support the fish with your other hand under the belly, in order to balance the weight. Measuring can easily be accomplished with a floating ruler back in the water. Another thought would be to apply a vinyl tape measurer to the side of your boat near the water line. Don’t forget to obtain a girth measurement before releasing your fish. The combination of length and girth will give you an estimate of the fish’s weight. (Formula: Girth x Girth x Length ÷ 800 = Approximate weight). 

3. Releasing your fish:

 A water release is the most appropriate method of releasing your fish. In a water release the fish is never removed from the net or cradle. All hook removal, measuring, etc. is done in the water, in the net. This method offers the least amount of stress to any fish. It is also the most difficult release for an inexperienced angler. Practice this release on smaller fish, before attempting on a larger fish. Once your fish has been removed from the net, hold the fish at the narrow area just above the tail with one hand, supporting the fish with the other hand. Keep the fish in an upright position and gently move the fish back and forth in the water to create a flow of water through its gills. This will facilitate the fish’s breathing. Sooner or later the fish will be able to maintain its own upright position and then swim off under its own power. Consider the location of where you first caught your fish and compare that location to where your boat may have drifted at the time of release. Never release a muskie over deep water if you can avoid it.

4. Other considerations when releasing Muskies:

These suggestions are directed primarily at catching and releasing the larger freshwater species such as muskie and northern pike. 

-Obtain accurate measurements and photos before releasing your fish. If you wish to have a mount/memory of your experience, consider having a graphite reproduction of your trophy.

-Use heavier line and appropriate tackle when fishing for these large fish. It is your responsibility to land this fish quickly and with the least amount of stress.

-Avoid any contact with the eyes and gills. Keep the eyes and gills from drying out. Keeping the fish in the water reduces the possibility of removing the protective mucous from the fish’s body.

-Minimize the time out of the water at each stage. If you can hold your breath for 90 seconds this is the maximum time your fish should be out of the water. In all reality this should be limited to 10-20 seconds for the fish's benefit. If you can't hold your breath for 90 seconds, please don't make a fish do it.

-Do not be too concerned if there is some slight bleeding from the gills-this is not fatal. Just return the fish to the water as quickly as possible.

-The more you know about catch & release, and practice it, the more you will be doing to benefit our fisheries.

-If you notice "bloody eyes" or over abundance of blood engorged fins and tail, leave the fish in the water at all times. Fish in this condition are much stressed and need to stay in the water during the entire C-P-R period.

5. Finally: 

 Go out there and have a fun safe day on the water!

Catch-Photo-Release, help us work to improve Muskie fishing in NM!!