large jack crevalle caught fishing in panama near famed tuna coast

How to Release Fish: Catch and Release Best Techniques

How to Properly Catch and Release Panama Saltwater Fish

When it comes to bending rods and catching fish, there’s no better place to do so than in Panama. Crystal-blue waters, along with warm temperatures and plenty of great fishing areas, all add up to make fishing in Panama an experience unlike any other. Because many of the fish caught here in Panama are for release only, it’s good to know the best techniques regarding how to properly catch and release the various species. Here are the best catch and release techniques our anglers use year after year here on the Tuna Coast.

Never Hold Fish Vertically at Jaws or Gills

Needless to say it’s always a great feeling to land a spectacular Rooster fish or Cubera snapper. However, once you get them hooked, it’s important to know how to properly land and handle a fish you plan to release. One of the most common mistakes made by novice anglers who may be experiencing Panama fishing for the first time is holding their fish vertically by the jaw or gills, which is the worst thing you can do to a fish that will be released. Since the waters where fish live allow them to live in a zero-gravity environment, holding them vertically puts their weight on their spine, leading to their vertebrae separating. Along with this, their organs go down to the stomach cavity, where they tear and kill the fish. Instead, it’s best to develop a habit of supporting the fish’s stomach and its body weight.

Don’t Gaff a Fish Destined for Release

While using a gaff may be a tempting way to get a tuna or dorado on board quickly, it’s a virtual death sentence for the fish if you’re planning on using the catch and release method. Tuna, as well as other pelagic species, are severely hindered by any hole in their jaw lining, which often makes t

hem unable to feed properly after being released. Use a net for the smaller ones and keep the larger ones in the water if you plan on releasing the fish.

Removing the Slime

Once you get the fish aboard with a net always keep your fish horizontal when handling, the next step is making sure you don’t remove the fish’s slime. If you put the fish on the boat’s gunwale to remove the hook, always wet it down so that you minimise the slime loss. Along with this, never use a towel or cloth to grab a fish you’ll be releasing, since that will definitely remove the slime. Instead place your hand under the fish’s belly, which will support its weight and make it easier for you to snap that picture holding the fish.

Beware of Stainless Steel Hooks

Whether it’s an African Pompano, Blue Jack, billfish, or various species of sailfish or sharks, it’s best to not use stainless steel hooks while fishing in Panama. Since these hooks don’t rust, they may impair the fish’s ability to feed and even breathe if it cannot be removed. If possible have a de-hooker on board to extract the hook if it is set deep. If this can’t be done, cut the line as close as possible to the hook’s eye and release the fish. For best results, use light-wire hooks that are non-coated, since they usually rust out much quicker than other hooks.

Let the Fish Recover

Assuming you have avoided the gill area and followed the other steps previously mentioned, it’s also very important to let the fish recover for a minute or two prior to release. This is especially important for large fish that have put up a long fight, such as marlin. Since these struggles lead to a buildup of lactic acid in the fish, this needs to be relieved before releasing the fish. Otherwise, it will swim about 20 feet away, turn upside down, and suffocate. Therefore, always remember that just because you use the catch and release method and see it swim away, that doesn’t necessarily mean it survives.

Time on deck

When bringing the fish on board it is critical to be prepared for the photo opportunity before the fish is brought aboard. Typically you want the fish back in the water within 15 seconds. Bring the fish onboard with a net and remove hook. Grab the fish with gloves and hold for photo. Once you get the shot release the fish back into the ocean quickly.

Enjoy Your Fishing Trip

By knowing how to properly catch and release the saltwater fish you’ll find on your Panama fishing tour here at El Rio Negro Sport Fishing Lodge, you and your fellow anglers are sure to have an experience that will have you coming back year after year. Whether you’ve landed a marlin, tarpon, shark, or sailfish, chances are you’ll be able to get a great picture to prove you landed the “big one,” and then use these techniques to release it back into the crystal-blue waters, ready to be caught by yet another fisherman.

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