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Saltwater Fishing

Fish Handling

Help Released Fish Survive

Whether you’re fishing for harvest or just for sport, chances are you’re going to need to release a fish. Give fish a fighting chance and help maintain and improve your Florida fish populations by following these proper fish handling tips:

  • Handle fish as little as possible and get them back in the water quickly.
  • Keep fingers out of eyes and gills.
  • Support fish horizontally using wet hands.
  • Never use towels to handle fish, which will remove a fish’s protective slime layer.
  • Use non-stainless-steel, non-offset, barbless circle hooks when using natural bait.
  • Use barbless hooks since they are easier and faster to remove than barbed hooks.
  • Use a pair of pliers or small hand crimper to flatten a circle hook’s barb; for larger hooks, a bench crimper can be used.
  • Use a dehooking tool to remove hooks.
  • Use a knotless, rubber-coated net and only gaff fish you intend to keep.
  • Do not remove large fish or prohibited species from the water.
  • Match your tackle to your targeted fish; using light tackle when catching large fish can cause them to become exhausted and decrease their chance of survival upon release.
  • Use a descending device or venting tool to help fish suffering from barotrauma.
  • Teach others about these proper fish handling techniques and learn more at