We've all done it — snapping a photograph with that hard fought catch. But have we ever considered what is the physical impact to that fish, and what happens to it once it is released.
Picture holding fish up
As to holding any large fish, in a vertical position is counter to the natural condition. Think about it! While the fish is in the water, the natural buoyancy supports the fish’s in the correct position. By simply removing the fish from the water causes the fish to be stressed and somewhat displaced from their natural location. Adding Insult to injury by the unnatural position of holding the fish vertical.
Picture holding sideways
Something tells me that this has to induce unnecessary stress on the internal organs, With large fish a more dangerous situation arises, say the fish weighs 25 pounds and you are holding by the bottom jaw, the fish is in grave danger that the isthmus will rupture and give way. Most avid fisherman have seen it, the isthmus is that connection that holds the lower body to the head and gill apparatus. There is a large bulge at the ‘throat’ of the fish
Picture bulging fish
Actually the pictures we see of anglers holding a lunker shows what I am speaking of. This is a deadly situation. The snook has to have this connection to be able to open and close the mouth with this magnificent force that snook have. If the isthmus is broken, the mouth-jaw gulping action doesn’t work. it doesn’t kill the fish immediately, he starves to death. It’s like being gut shot. Slow, but certain death. Plus the unknown damage done to the internal organs.
So if the fish is not destined to be in the bag, try to release the fish while it is still in the water, at the very least ASAP after C.P.R.. If you must remove it for a photo, hold the fish in a horizontal plane by the bottom lip while supporting the belly or tail in your other hand.
And when you finally release the fish- if it is stressed beyond some critical point- disoriented and ‘tired out’ so to speak, spend some time with the fish and revive it before releasing it Hold the fish in an upright position, preferably in the shade of the boat, a nearby dock or overhanging tree. Shaded water is cooler and cooler water contains more oxygen. if the fish is in poor shape, hold the bottom jaw slightly agape and move the fish, in one direction, into the current.
Don’t, BY ANY MEANS, move the fish back and forth in see-saw motion.
This induces more stress from unnaturally constraining the fish- do you know any species of fish that swims back and forth in this manner? The water needs to flow over the gills in a deliberate stream. The gills can’t remove oxygen from a turbulent steam. And at first indication the fish is ‘ready’, release it. Nature can revive a fish better that we ever can. Gently head out into the current and let it go. Watch for a minute or so.
I hope this has helped