Best fishing practices

Many anglers plan ahead and incorporate best fishing practices using tips to ensure safe and responsible angling. Thank you to or providing the following tips:.

Plan Ahead

Know your fishing regulations and have the necessary equipment ready to release fish that you do not plan to keep.


Develop fishing skills to target the size and species you desire. Change location, depth, or bait to avoid catching fish you do not intend to keep.

Appropriate Gear

Use appropriately sized gear that is targeted to the species you desire to catch. Use circle hooks when planning to release fish and where they are required. See below.

Landing Fish

Do not play the fish to exhaustion. Use line strong enough to minimize playing time. Land the fish quickly and if possible, release them while still in the water

Handling Fish

Use knotless, rubberized landing nets and rubberized gloves to avoid removing the slime layer from the fish’s body. Keep the fish horizontal and support the body. Avoid dropping the fish, especially onto hard surfaces. Use release tools, such as dehookers and recompression tools, to minimize handling. Release fish as soon as practical and do not keep them out of the water longer than necessary.

What is Barotrauma?

Fish experience barotrauma, a condition caused by a change in pressure, when a fish is rapidly reeled to the surface. The change in pressure causes air in the swim bladder to expand and prevents the fish from being able to swim back down to the bottom. The inflated swim bladder acts like a flotation device (life jacket) and keeps the fish at the surface.

Barotrauma can occur when fish are brought up from depths as shallow as 30 feet. It is most common in fish reeled up from greater than 90 feet and becomes more severe when reeled up from deeper depths. Descending devices can be used to return fish back to the bottom. Signs of barotrauma are displayed in the pictures below.


Pictures provided by Brendan Runde, Department of Applied Ecology, NC State University.

A released red snapper showing signs of barotrauma is unable to swim back down to the bottom after being released.

Best Fishing Practices for fish caught at deep depths

The following information was provided by FishSmart. For more best fishing practices visit,

Assess condition while reeling in fish

Determine if the fish exhibits sluggish swimming, “pop eye”, stomach protruding from mouth, bloated mid-section.


A variety of recompression tools are on the market, including descending devices, release weights, release baskets, and more. Rapidly returning a fish to depth is the method of choice for returning fish affected by barotrauma.


If rapid descent is not possible, venting is an option. Use established guidelines for venting. They can be found at

Hook type

Hook type can influence the survivorship of released fish because certain hooks types are more likely to hook fish in the jaw. A jaw hooked fish is more likely to survive when released than a fish hooked in the stomach, eye, or gill. Non-offset circle hooks are less likely to cause injury than other hook types. Click herefor more information on circle hook regulations in the South Atlantic

Circle Hook

J Hook

Non offset Circle Hook

Offset J Hook