Recreational anglers - whether weekend fishermen, world record hunters, or tournament competitors - are becoming increasingly conscious of the need to conserve the fish they love to pursue. As they call for more and better science to strengthen the health of fisheries the world over, they have also looked for ways to reduce the impact of their hobby on game fish species. In particular, more and more tournaments are adopting an all-release format, necessitating a standard for released catches. Answering this need, the International Game Fish Association has codified a new set of Release Rules to clarify and support the ideals of ethical recreational angling.
It is IGFA's hope that establishing a definition for an "official IGFA release" will not only institute a standard by which anglers can compare releases, but also, and more importantly, encourage anglers to continue releasing fish. At its recent annual board meeting in January, the IGFA Board of Trustees approved the following:
This new rule sets a standard for a released catch, and makes release formats more accessible for tournaments - many of which already use IGFA Rules as the basis for their tournament rules.
"Anything we can do to promote the proper release of fish, especially in a tournament setting, is good," IGFA President Rob Kramer said. "By establishing rules for what constitutes a release, the IGFA hopes to facilitate more fish making it back to the water alive and in the best possible health."
While adopting this rules change, the IGFA Board of Trustees also saw the unique and beneficial opportunity to create a recommendation for best practices for safe and ethical release of fish:
- Circle hooks are encouraged when fishing with live or dead natural bait
- The hook should be removed if possible and will not cause additional harm to angler or fish
- If the hook cannot be removed, the leader should be cut as close to hook as possible
- Mates should refrain from manually breaking or "popping" leaders because this can cause additional harm to fish, especially those not hooked in the jaw.
- Ample time should be taken to revive exhausted fish by gently moving them forward in the water to get water flowing over the gills.
- Knotless, rubber coated nets should be used on fish that are netted.
"Anglers have realized that in order for our sport to thrive, we must each take responsibly for being good stewards of our resources," Kramer added. "The IGFA is proud to be taking a progressive part in that effort with these changes and recommendations."
Go here for the complete set of IGFA International Fishing Rules