What Percent Of Catch and Release Fish Die

What Percent Of Catch and Release Fish Die

Almost every catch-and-release fisherman will eventually face the question, “Doesn’t that hurt the fish?” What Percent Of Catch and Release Fish Die? The debate over whether catch-and-release fishing is humane, and fishing itself, has raged for decades.

Some countries, like Germany, have banned the practice, while in other places, such as many popular US trout streams, it is mandatory. Both sides of the argument have passionate advocates, but there are no clear-cut answers. To determine if catch and release fishing harm fish, it is essential to define what we mean by “hurt.”

It’s also critical to understand that several best practices can minimize the impact on the fish. Ultimately, the decision to engage in catch-and-release fishing is a personal one, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach that suits every angler.

Why Catch and Release Fishing Bad?

catch and release fish

The sport of catch-and-release fishing is often criticized for its cruelty. Research has shown that fish subjected to this practice experience extreme physiological stress, which can result in shock and death.

Additionally, fish often swallow hooks, and fishermen may unintentionally cause further harm while attempting to retrieve them. For instance, inserting fingers or pliers into the fish’s throat can rip out the hook and cause additional damage to the fish’s throat and intestines.

Moreover, the handling of fish during catch-and-release fishing can strip away their protective coating, making them more vulnerable to predators when released back into the water. Overall, the injuries and trauma inflicted on fish make catch-and-release fishing problematic for the welfare of the fish.

Do Fish Feel Pain When They’re Caught?

Fish are capable of experiencing pain because, like all animals, they possess nerves. When fish are hooked, they struggle in fear and physical distress, desperately gasping for air. Once removed from their aquatic environment, they begin to suffocate, and their gills may collapse.

In commercial fishing, the sudden change in pressure can even cause fish to experience ruptured swim bladders. In addition to feeling pain, scientific evidence indicates that fish are intelligent and possess great memories, as well as being socially sophisticated.

They have been observed using tools and even communicating with each other through sign language, squeaks, and squeals. This wealth of knowledge about fish behavior and cognitive abilities suggests that they are more complex creatures than previously thought, and thus, should be treated with greater care and respect.

Fishing Gear Hurts Wildlife

Fishing gear can cause significant harm to both fish and other animals. This harm may arise through a range of fishing practices, such as catch-and-release or angling. Unfortunately, regardless of the fishing technique(How to Catch Bass), fishermen frequently leave behind a large amount of discarded tackle that poses serious threats to animals.

This tackle, which can include fishing lines and hooks, can entangle or be ingested by a range of creatures, including birds, turtles, and even cats. As a result, many animals may suffer from debilitating injuries or become unable to move or hunt for food, leading to their deaths.

Wildlife rehabilitators have identified discarded fishing tackle as a significant threat to aquatic animals, and the impact can be quite severe. The use of barbed hooks and lead sinkers can lead to internal bleeding, while lines and nets can cause strangulation, amputations, and other severe injuries.

The consequences of discarded fishing gear can be devastating, causing long-lasting harm to animals, disrupting ecosystems, and impacting human health.

What You Can Do to Help Fish?

One way to avoid harming animals through fishing is to explore other activities that nature has to offer. Hiking, camping, and canoeing are all excellent options that allow individuals to enjoy the outdoors without harming animals. By engaging in these activities, people can appreciate the beauty of nature and its creatures in a respectful and sustainable way.

It’s essential to share this information with others so that they can also make informed choices about their recreational activities. Fishing, including catch-and-release, can harm wildlife and disrupt ecosystems.

Therefore, it’s important to spread awareness about the impacts of fishing and encourage others to explore other nature-based activities that don’t harm animals. By sharing this page with others, we can help promote responsible and compassionate choices that benefit wildlife and the environment.

How To Make Catch and Release Hurt Fish Less

catch and release fish

Following are some of the important points:

Reduce Handling Time

To ensure the health and survival of fish, it’s crucial to minimize the time they spend out of the water. Just like humans, fish need to breathe and prolonged time out of the water can be dangerous. Many anglers want to take pictures and measure their catch, but these actions can harm the fish by keeping them out of the water they need to survive.

Additionally, handling fish can remove their protective layer of slime, making them more vulnerable to infection and other complications. Therefore, it’s essential to minimize handling and release the fish as quickly and gently as possible.

In cases where the fish has swallowed the hook, or it’s lodged tightly and won’t budge. It’s important to weigh the impact of your handling against the impact of leaving the hook in. If you believe the fish won’t survive after release, consider keeping and humanely killing it.

If you do decide to release the fish, cutting the line and leaving the hook in may be the best option, as some fish can survive with a hook still stuck in them. Ultimately, it’s important to prioritize the well-being of the fish and make the most ethical choice possible.

Keep It Wet

When handling fish, it’s important to keep them wet or in the water as much as possible to preserve their protective slime layer, which helps keep them healthy. Anglers can use landing nets to unhook fish while they are still in the water.

If the fish needs to be taken out, wetting hands and any other objects that will come into contact with the fish’s skin can help minimize damage to the slime layer. Placing a fish on the dry ground can be deadly for the fish, as it damages the protective slime and can introduce bacteria that can cause infections.

It’s important to keep this in mind when taking pictures or measuring the fish, and always prioritize the well-being of the fish over personal gratification.

Use Barbless Single Hooks

When catching and releasing fish during flyfishing, unhooking the fish is often the longest part of the handling process. Barbed hooks are design to hold a fish longer, making unhooking more complicated and harmful for the fish.

To increase the chances of survival for the fish, flatten the barbs on your lure hooks for barbless ones. Barbless hooks are less harmful to the fish during the catch and make release much easier. While a few more fish may escape with barbless hooks, it is a small price to pay for the fish’s higher chance of survival.

The same is true for treble hooks, as they increase the likelihood that a fish gets and stays hooked. To ensure successful catch and release fishing, it’s best to replace treble hooks with single ones.

Be Careful How You Handle Your Fish

When anglers catch a fish, they sometimes like to hold it in a way that shows off the size of the fish or the angler’s achievement. “Lipping” is one such way where the angler uses their hand to hold the fish by its lip.

However, not all fish have jaws that can handle this kind of stress. If the angler pulls too hard, it can cause damage to the fish’s jaw, making it difficult for the fish to eat and survive.

Similarly, the gills of a fish are delicate structures that are used by the fish to breathe. If the angler hooks their fingers under or around the gills, it can cause severe damage to them, which can lead to the fish’s death.

Therefore, it is important to handle the fish carefully, supporting its entire body and balancing. Its weight to avoid putting undue stress on any one part, including the jaw and gills.


In answer to the original question what percent of catch and release fish die? we can safely say yes it does.

The survival rate of catch and release fish varies depending on factors such as the species of fish, how it was caught, and how it was handled. Studies have shown that the overall survival rate of catch-and-release fish can range from as high as 99% to as low as 30%. With most estimates falling between 70% and 90%.

Factors that increase the mortality rate include the use of barbed hooks, excessive handling, high water temperatures, and delayed release. By following best practices for catch-and-release fishing, anglers can greatly improve the chances of the fish surviving and thriving after being release.

When a fish takes the bait, it may swallow the hook, and if not removed carefully. It can cause gut hooking. By hooking the fish in the mouth, you can reduce the risk of gut hooking. And increase the likelihood that the fish will survive after being released.

Catch-and-release fishing helps improve native fish populations and allows more anglers to enjoy fishing and catch fish successfully.

Fish feel pain when they are hook during catch-and-release fishing. The wriggling and squirming that they do is a conscious reaction to this pain.

The ability to remember being caught for up to 11 months and subsequently take measures to avoid getting caught again. This suggests that fish may have a much more sophisticated memory than previously thought. They are capable of learning and retaining information for extended periods of time.

Joshua Collier
"Joshua Collier is an experienced angler and writer based in Florida. With over 10 years of experience fishing in freshwater and saltwater environments, Joshua has become an expert on everything from fly fishing for trout to trolling for marlin.