Fish Tags/Marine Fisheries Comments

Saltwater Marine Fishing Regulations Florida Saltwater Fishing

Catch-and-Release Tips

These quick and easy tips can help increase the survival rate of fish you release, so they may be caught again another day. Properly releasing any fish you do not intend to keep can also help maintain and improve fisheries for future generations.

General Fish Handling Guidelines

  • Use tackle heavy enough to land a fish quickly so it is not exhausted and can avoid predators.
  • Avoid removing large fish from water. If you must remove them, support their weight horizontally to prevent damage to their internal organs.
  • Wet your hands before handling a fish to prevent damaging its protective slime coating. Don’t use gloves or towels, as this will remove the protective slime.
  • Take any pictures of your catch while it is in the water. This puts less stress on the fish.
  • Revive a tired fish by holding it horizontally in the water and moving it forward with its mouth open to allow water to flow over the gills.
  • Gripping devices can be effective for controlling and handling fish. Grip behind the lower lip and support the weight of the fish in a horizontal position.
  • Never hold a fish by the gill cover or eyes.
  • If a net is needed to land or control a fish, always use a knotless, rubber-coated landing net.
  • A dehooking tool will allow you to remove hooks safely and quickly without damaging the fish.
  • Use non-offset circle hooks, which tend to hook in the jaw, to reduce the change of gut-hooking a fish.
  • Using barbless hooks, or hooks with the barb flattened, is one of the most important things an angler can do to minimize internal damage to fish and ease release.
  • Use non-stainless steel hooks that will eventually dissolve or pass if the line must be cut due to gut-hooking a fish.
  • For lures with multiple sets of treble hooks, remove a few sets of treble hooks and cut one of the three points off the remaining trebles.
  • For fish caught in deep water with signs of barotrauma, use a descending device or vent the fish by inserting a sharpened hollow tube at a 45-degree angle, one inch behind the base of the pectoral fin.

Tarpon Handling Guidelines

  • Know tarpon regulations. Tarpon over 40 inches MUST remain in the water unless a tag is used.
  • Don’t tow a tarpon unless it is necessary to revive it.
  • Keep the tarpon’s head and gills in the water.
  • Do not target them from bridges or piers – releasing tarpon from bridges or piers requires specialized lifting gear or cutting the line.
  • Use proper tackle. Use barbless, single, non-offset circle hooks for natural bait. Use single hooks rather than treble hooks. Use tackle heavy enough to land the tarpon quickly, minimize exhaustion, and helping the fish avoid predators after release.
  • Do not drag tarpon over the gunnel of a boat.
  • Use a dehooking tool.
  • Tarpon smaller than 40” should be supported horizontally when removed from the water. Tarpon larger than 40” MUST remain in the water.
  • Do not fish for tarpon when large predatory sharks are in the area feeding.

Shark Handling Guidelines

  • Minimize fight time. Use Shark-Smart tackle such as:
    • Non-stainless steel, non-offset circle hooks, which are less likely to hook vital organs, easier to remove, and more likely to rust away
    • Hooks with the barb flattened or filed down
    • Appropriate-sized hooks for the shark targeted
    • Heavy tackle, a minimum of 80-pound test
  • Keep sharks, especially their gills, in the water.
  • NEVER bring a large shark onto a fishing vessel, a pier or bridge, or onto dry land beyond the surf zone unless you plan to harvest it.
  • Minimize handling and release time and do not delay release just to take pictures.
  • Do not sit on the shark’s back or pull back on the snout to reveal the teeth.
  • Use a long-handled dehooking device to help with hook removal.
  • If you cannot safely and quickly remove the hook from the mouth, a bolt cutter may be used to cut the hook.

Shore Fishing Guidelines

  • Keep the fish in as much water as is safely possible.
  • Avoid fishing on crowded beaches or during high-traffic times of the day.
  • Avoid chumming and fishing near swimmers or popular swimming areas.

Pier and Bridge Fishing Guidelines

  • Most piers and bridges are high above the water, making handling and release difficult. Catch-and-release fishing is not recommended from these locations.
  • Do NOT bring a large fish onto a pier or bridge. Instead, walk the large fish to the base of the bridge/pier before removing the hook (or cutting the line, if needed).
  • Use a pier net to bring small fish up from the water.
  • When releasing, use the pier net to lower the fish back down to the water.

You can help positively impact the future of Florida’s fish populations by striving for 100% survival of the fish you release! To learn more about proper catch-and-release techniques, visit MyFWC.com then click on “Fishing”, “Saltwater” and “Fish Handling”.