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A wake up call on releasing fish with a gloved hand - from Pat Garratt
I write to comment briefly on the number of fly fishermen/women who release fish (of all sorts) with a gloved hand. I appreciate that you, and many of our brethren out there, appreciate this, but I still see countless gloves in the release photographs, which makes me think that those who continue to use gloves while releasing, do not fully understand their consequences. Thankfully, your last newsletter/blog had most people releasing with bare hands - hopefully wetted beforehand. While I understand that some species (e.g. the kingfishes with their tail skutes) would give your hand a thorough workout, ALL fishes suffer badly by the removal of slime from their bodies. Even the great Kingfishes. And the gloves of most fishermen do a great job in this regard – even those light nylon ones worn by me and many others primarily for sun protection.
In the aquarium business, we catch hundreds of fish each year (many of which are released at some stage in their lives back into the ocean) and, in most instances, have a “close-to” 100% survival. And it all hinges on how we treat them, from the moment they are hooked to the time they are on display – and thereafter. Some fishes are much hardier than others, but many rely heavily on their mucous lining – especially the Tunas and the Snoek that you dare not touch even with the naked hand! The “softer” fishes of our freshwater systems, such as trout, are not far removed from the Tunas and Snoek. They too have minute scales (not as reduced as in Tuna and Snoek) and rely heavily on their mucous.
So, the message to the folk out there is to give this some serious thought before next releasing fish. Recently, I have stopped to think about this because Bruce Mann, up at ORI in Durban, is now sitting on about twelve years of catch release data from the St Lucia Marine Reserve, which he has started to analyse. I have been fortunate with my past (and vast, if I may say) experience in tagging to be included in one of his tagging teams and I am really concerned by the low re-capture rate of my fishes. I am beginning to suspect that my gloves may have played a part in this, as there is no other overt reason that comes to mind.
(I think we all owe Pat a word of thanks on this. There go my gloves from catch and release shots! TS.)
With thanks to the author and Tom Sutcliffe from whose newsletter I "poached" the article!