As part of the meeting in Bangalore, fish handling was subject to some discussion. Steve read a prepared statement.
“As a matter of principle, all of us should subscribe to, uphold and encourage others to follow a code of conduct for safe handling of fish.
The basis of the code lies in an understanding that a fish should be out of water for a minimum length of time, following a fight which, while allowing for due respect for the size of the fish, does not allow the fish to become completely exhausted.
Every angler should act in a positive manner and try to avoid panic, which invariably leads to confusion and poor handling.
Ensure you are fully equipped to deal with all aspects of fish handling before setting out to fish. As a minimum, you should carry; a pair of forceps or pliers to aid unhooking, even when a fish is liphooked; a landing net wherever you can reasonably expect to catch fish over 1/2k; an unhooking mat when fishing from the bank, or if you expect to lay fish down in a boat. Make sure these items are easily to hand before you hook a fish.
Do not attempt to fish from any area where it would be difficult to land or unhook a fish.
Use tackle that is both appropriate to the situation and fish being encountered and balanced to give maximum strength from hook to reel.
Keep in mind that fish are designed to be wet. Drying out and excessive heat will damage the protective slime.
Wet your hands before picking up a fish. If using an unhooking mat, make sure it is well wetted before placing a fish on it. When lifting a fish for a photo, dip it in water between shots.
Personally, I am in favour of barbless hooks at all times, both for bait fishing, and on lures. If a tight line is kept to the fish at all times, there is little chance of the hook dropping out. Should I have to give slack line during the fight, I would rather lose the fish due to the hook dropping out than run the risk of the fish being left trailing a lure or length of line.
I also feel that long casting for powerful fish in snaggy areas is irresponsible. With long lengths of line out, there is little chance for you to gain control before the fish can find the snag.
Fish can survive out of water for a surprising length of time, if needed. So act calmly, handle the fish gently (which stops them panicking) but positively, with wet hands and the correct equipment and you can be left with happy memories of a fine adversary.
It should go without saying that you will support the fish in the water for as long as it takes for the fish to kick powerfully from your hands.
Stringers have been debated at some length on the forum. I will simply restate my position:
I can only see them doing damage to a very vulnerable part of the fish’s anatomy, especially in the hands of novices.
Others, including anglers I have great respect for, are firmly in favour of them as an aid to recovery. I cannot subscribe to that view and would prefer to spend as much time as possible on fish recovery, minimize handling and play the fish for as short a time as possible.”
That is pretty much the account of the fish handling part of the meeting. If anyone else has something to add to this, feel free, but try to remember that simple steps will be easier to implement, especially for the less experienced angler.
I believe JLR will be adopting most of the above as a code of conduct that all visiting anglers must sign up to before being allowed to fish.
Some points were raised at the time of the meet, most notably by Owen, who asked about photography. Try to take photos of fish with the angler kneeling low to the ground with an unhooking mat beneath, or in the water allowing the fish to have a dip.
Nirad asked for an explanation of the strength from hook to reel point. That refers to balanced tackle. The line strength should be appropriate to the fish size and swim type. This will dictate the strength of the rod; size, weight, wire thickness and strength of hook; size and gearing of reel; breaking strain of swivels. All these things have to work together.
One of the most common mistakes is to use a hook that is too small, or too thin in the wire. When that happens, the hook will simply be pulled through the hook hold by the strength of the rod.