Best Practices for Catch and Release Fishing

by on

Photo courtesy of the National Park Service.

Fish and wildlife experts disagree on the ethics of catch and release fishing. According to PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), it’s cruel. Their opinion is backed by the research of scientists like James Rose, who told the New York Times that fish do feel a little pain.

However, proponents of catch and release fishing assert its conservation benefits. According to the National Parks Service, it allows more native fish to remain in the water and reproduce in the ecosystem. Some lakes such as Deerfield Lake and Westcolang Lake only allow catch and release fishing for this reason. Whatever your stance on this controversy, if you decide to try it, it’s important to do it properly to decrease fish mortality risk. 

We talked with Greg Gerlich, assistant regional director for the fish and aquatic conservation program in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to learn best practices. Based on his expertise and research as a fish biologist, he feels that “done properly, catch and release can be a way to enjoy fishing, particularly for people who don’t want to harvest the fish. It’s also very rewarding.”

So, before grabbing your fishing rod, consider these best practices for catch and release fishing. 

Stick to Active Fishing

Photo courtesy of

As opposed to passive fishing (e.g., nets, longlines, and traps), active fishing involves intentionally watching your contraption (e.g., fishing hooks and seining). With active methods, fish are less likely to swallow the bait and stay on the hook for too long. This is safer because when anglers are consciously paying attention to their bait, it’s easier to bring in a fish quickly and release it.

Gerlich adds, “Another key point is that you don’t want to overplay the fish and fight to exhaustion. It’s also important to make sure your line is sufficient weight and quality to bring in fish quickly.” Essentially, active fishing helps with speed and reaction time. The faster you can reel in the fish, the faster you can release it. 

Limit the Fish’s Time Out of Water

Photo courtesy of

To reduce the fish’s stress and ensure survival, minimize its time out of water. This shorter interval involves thinking ahead of time. Get your line, tackle, and bait in order, pre-plan your photograph, and make sure your hands are wet to reduce the loss of the fish’s protective mucus. Then, lift the fish efficiently for a quick photo and immediately release it into the water. 

A few tools can help enable a quicker release. According to the National Parks Service, artificial lures are the best choice for catch and release fishing because the hooks are easier to remove. Barbless hooks are much easier to remove. Plus, according to one Florida study on snappers and groupers, there’s no difference in catch rates between barbed and barbless hooks. Overall, stay mindful of handling the fish as little as possible.

Keep the Species in Mind

Photo courtesy of The Durango Herald.

The impact of catch and release fishing differs depending on your lake’s biodiversity. Gerlich warns, “You don’t want to practice on species in water that is pushing their psychological tolerance.” One example is trout fishing. According to Gerlich, water above 70 degrees negatively impacts trout, especially if they’re stressed. Avoid trout fishing in these warm waters.

Similar precautions apply to fish that reside in deep water. A deep-water fish has limited time to acclimate to each water stratification level when you’re reeling them in. According to South Carolina Coastal Resources, this is called “barotrauma,” referring to a body part or organ’s injury due to sudden changes in barometric pressure. Snapper and grouper are most commonly affected by barotrauma. To remedy this, use descending devices to return fish to their homes at lower depths. 

Do Your Research

Photo courtesy of NESEA.

If you aren’t sure what precautions to take for the fish in your lake, educate yourself. If you’re on a private lake, talk to the homeowners association and connect with other anglers. If you’re on public waters, contact the state’s fish and wildlife management agency and your local fisheries.

Especially if you’ve just bought a lake home and you’re new to the area, it’s important to inquire about best catch and release practices in your area. Gerlich adds that sporting stores and fly fishing shops are excellent resources for anglers too. “It’s their business to know what fish are out there,” he says of guides at fly fishing stores. 

Are you an avid angler at your lake house? What other catch and release fishing practices have you adopted? 


In this video, Lake Homes Realty’s CEO, Glenn S. Phillips, gives us the ONLY reason why your lake home is NOT selling.

If your property is listed on the MLS, chances are it’s being seen in the market and is reaching its maximum exposure.

With the current state of the real estate market, demand for lake homes is high making it a prime time to sell your lake home or property. But some of you might wonder: If the market is hot, then why is my lake house not selling? 

The answer is simple: OVERPRICING. You must price your home appropriately in order to get it sold and we can help you do that! 

Visit to consult with a real estate agent that specializes in lake-focused property TODAY!


Screened In Porch Technology in 2020

September 14, 2020

The demand for screened-in porches keeps increasing — especially for lake houses. There are countless ways to use it. “It doesn’t have to be nice weather to enjoy it,” homeowner Barb Kurz told the Washington Post in an article about screened porch popularity. “Let’s face it; there’s a limited time to be completely outside.” During the fall, these […]

Read the full article →

Tellico Village: A Retirement Paradise in Tennessee

September 12, 2020

If you’re looking to retire on the lake, there’s likely a thousand questions running through your mind. Is this lake close enough to a hospital? Is the community close-knit? On many lakes, you may have to compromise one value for another. However, Tellico Village, a 5,000-acre resort for seniors on Tellico Lake, might have it all.  With […]

Read the full article →

Insider Tips for Home Renovating

September 10, 2020

It’s no secret that home renovating is costly. According to Home Advisor, remodeling an average 2,500 square foot home costs anywhere between $15,000 and $200,000. For lake houses, there are additional considerations like flood preparations. Between material costs and contractor fees, one fact is certain — it’s easy to break the bank. But savvy lake homeowners know the […]

Read the full article →

Top Lake Movies by Genre

September 5, 2020

Here at Lake Homes Realty, we love movies about lakes. Just look at two of our previous blog posts, Lake Movies You Must See and Top Five Movies Set on the Lake, for proof. However, we recognize that everyone has different tastes when it comes to movies. Some shy away from horror and enjoy a […]

Read the full article →

How to Attract Birds to Your Lake House

September 4, 2020

Despite its reputation as a boring pastime, bird watching is anything but dull. It’s a popular hobby that over 45 million Americans engage in, according to the U.S. Fishing and Wildlife Service. Bird watching is especially thrilling if you own a lake home. “At the lake, you have a greater range of potential bird species […]

Read the full article →

Whiteboard Topics: 3 Reasons Not to Wait to Sell Your Lake Home

September 2, 2020

When you’re starting to think about selling your lake home, it can be hard to know when the best time to do so. In this video, Lake Homes Realty’s CEO, Glenn S. Phillips, shares THREE reasons why this fall may be the BEST time to SELL your lake home. Spring is old school. People looking […]

Read the full article →

5 Trail Mix Recipes for Your Next Outdoor Adventure

August 31, 2020

Whether you’re braving an arduous hiking trail or enjoying a lazy afternoon on the boat dock, trail mix is an unbeatable snack. It’s lightweight yet dense, easily portable, and doesn’t require refrigeration — making it a perfect choice for on-the-go nature enthusiasts. Besides these benefits, one of the best parts is that you can customize […]

Read the full article →

Fresh Water, Sandy Shores: The Best Beach Lakes in the U.S.

August 30, 2020

Who said sandcastles are reserved for ocean coasts? It turns out, you can find that sandy shoreline you’ve dreamed of on a landlocked lake. Further, many of these lakes with beaches are comparable to coastal settings. The difference is how they’re formed. Most saltwater lakes develop from tidal action eroding sediment while freshwater beaches arise […]

Read the full article →