[By Bert Horsley] From the second the hook is set to the moment the fish is landed, we all experience a great amount of excitement. It is great fun for us as anglers, but on the other end of the line the fish are fighting for their lives. It is important for us to be responsible and ensure that they live on to fight again, especially this time of year as the water temperatures are rising and the flows are lowering. Here are some things to do when you are out there with a tight line.
Once you have a fish on, you want to work to land it as quickly as possible. Whether you can strip it in or it takes you to the reel, make sure you safely bring the fish in quickly. Get your rod high and keep that tension on as you work the fish out of the current and to your net or hand. The fight is always fun, but if it doesn't need to happen, don't make it. Landing the fish quickly greatly reduces the stress it is already experiencing and helps to get it safely back into the water in a timely manner.
After the fish is in, it is of the utmost importance to minimize the time it spends out of the water. Whether you are snapping pictures or just enjoying the beauty of the animal, make sure you do it responsibly. Handle the fish as little as possible. Be prepared to do it quickly if you are taking pictures. If possible, keep the fish in the net under water as you prepare for the picture. Once you are ready to release, gently return it to the water and make sure it is in shape to swim off on its own. If it is not able to take off, it is your responsibility to help get the fish swimming again. Take this very seriously and make sure you take care to get the fish safely back in the water.
Taking care of the fish is an important matter, not to be taken lightly. Effective practice of these skills is the job of every angler. Do it right to preserve this valuable resource that we all enjoy.