Help Striped Bass Survive Catch and Release

Despite our best intentions, stripers experience stress and physical injury during capture and handling and, depending on the degree of these impacts, may not survive.

The mortality rate of striped bass following release is not trivial. Fishery scientists assume a 9% mortality rate for striped bass caught and released by recreational anglers. Applying this to the 2017 yields an estimate of over 3.4 million dead stripers!

By using best catch-and-release practices, anglers can ensure greater chances of survival of released fish and increase their contributions to the conservation of this important recreational species.

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Choose Tackle Wisely

  • Always use appropriate tackle that allows stripers to be brought in quickly.
  • When fishing with plugs and lures, consider removing one or two sets of treble hooks or replacing them with single hooks.
  • Use single, barbless hooks whenever possible to ease hook removal and reduce tissue damage and handling stress.
  • When fishing with natural or live bait, use non-offset circle hooks to minimize gut hooking.
  • When using “snag and drop” techniques to snag live bait on treble hooks, transfer and swim baits on a single circle-hook rig.

Minimize the Fight

  • When you feel a strike, set the hook quickly to prevent the fish from taking the hook deep where it may cause organ damage and be difficult to remove.
  • Once a fish is hooked, land it quickly rather than playing it to exhaustion.
striper release

Handle with Care

  • Ideally, keep the fish in the water to reduce stress and the potential for injury.
  • If a fish must be removed from the water, handle it as little as possible, and release it quickly.
  • Avoid using gaffs to land striped bass that are going to be released.
  • When using a landing net, use a net with small mesh made of rubber, knotless nylon, or other soft, non-abrasive material.
  • If you need to lift a striped bass, hold it horizontally by gripping the lower jaw and supporting its weight under the belly.
  • Once a striper is landed, keep it from thrashing around and injuring itself.
  • When unhooking a striped bass, handle it using wet hands or wet cotton gloves to minimize removal of the fish’s protective mucous.
  • Avoid touching the eyes and gills.
  • If a fish is hooked deep, cut the leader as close as you can to the hook and leave it in the fish.

Release it Right

  • Fish should be quickly and gently returned to the water in an upright, horizontal position.
  • Revive fish by holding them headfirst into the current. Place one hand around the fish’s tail and the other under its belly or grasp its jaw between your thumb and forefinger.
  • Gently move fish in a figure-8 pattern to get water flowing through the mouth and over the gills. Always keep the fish moving forward, never backward.
  • Do not let the fish go until it is able to swim strongly and freely out of your grasp.

Reference: Tiedemann, J. and A. Danylchuk. 2012. Assessing Impacts of Catch and Release Practices on Striped Bass.
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27 on “Help Striped Bass Survive Catch and Release

  1. Logic 1.0

    Thank you for sharing this article. A few observations:
    We flatten the barbs on our plugs, make releasing the stripers or for that matter any fish easier.
    Handling the fish; I hate to see schoolies or any stripper that is going to be released dragged through the sand. Imagine if you where naked and dragged all wet through the sand.
    IMO the jury is still out on the non-offset circle hooks, when they work as advertised the hooks are great but if swallow the hooks pin the stripers gullet closed.

  2. Derrick

    What hasn’t the manufacturing of barb’s been made illegal? I don’t use them and I catch fish without them. Somebody please answer that question.

    1. Ned

      I’ll gladly answer your question. Some of us anglers prefer barbed hooks so as to securely bring a fish to the boat or beach. I keep what I catch and I cook and eat it too. Striped bass is devious with a little olive oil and crushed garlic.

      1. Marcuswelby

        Ned beside adding olive oil, and crushed garlic you get an added bonus that is included in each and every striper you consume. That being Mercury.
        If you are consuming 3/4 a month its not that big of a deal. However 3/4 a week could cause problem such as motor functions, memory and balance…now where was I Lol.
        Good luck, tight lines

  3. John

    1st thing stop fly fishing for them.
    2nd stop using light freshwater gear.
    3rd when taking out of the water. Hold your breath until you put the fish back.
    See if you can hold your breath for 3-4 minutes…
    4th.
    UNHOOK THE FISH IN THE WATER AND DONT LIFT OUT…
    You want a picture, get in the water with the fish.

    1. canalrat

      Agree . People fighting fish too long; especially the bigger fish.

    2. bob

      epoxy jigs with treble hooks are probably better for the fish than barbless flies anyways right john ?

    3. Matt

      Yeah! It’s the 5% of fishermen using single, barbless hooks who almost never gut hook a fish who are the problem. The other 95% who chuck trebles or need jingle bells on their bait set-ups to know when to look up from their beers. They don’t kill fish.

    4. Cafe619racer

      Regarding Mercury poisoning, it is scientifically proven that the ratio of Mercury to Selenium is roughly .50 Hg/Se. Selenium is used by brain enzymes to rid toxins. 1 Mercury will bind to 1 Selenium, rendering that one selenium useless. In result, eating Striper with a .50 Hg/Se ration will result in a net gain of selenium, therefore protecting you against Mercury. You can eat all the striper you want without any fear of Mercury poisoning.

  4. brian tucker

    Stop fly fishing for stripers.Takes to long to bring in if the striper is to big.

    1. briantuckerisaclown

      Brian Tucker way to sling opinion like you know something that matters!

  5. Hunting Stripes

    Not if you bring enough flyrod AND you know how to use it properly to fight a fish!

  6. JJ

    Hooks should not be sold with barbs and plugs/lures should not have 3 sets of hooks. I don’t care if you’re a meat fisherman or not- you don’t keep them all (I hope)

  7. JJ

    Hooks should not be sold with barbs and plugs/lures should not have 3 sets of hooks. I don’t care if you’re a meat fisherman or not- you don’t keep them all (I hope).

  8. Kyle

    I wonder if the person who wrote this article is the same person that lifts cow stripers onto a boat only grabbing it lips.
    ….watch an episode of on the water at block island

  9. Robert d Daniels

    i read on the water reports and stores thanks on the water for writing them to the replays people need too not reply all fish men have the right to fish the way their want too to meanie cry baby’s out their GO FISHING HAVE SOME FUN

  10. Jim Lahey

    Why hooks even still legal? Someone answer the question? Better yet, why are lures, flies, live bait, and dead bait still legal? After my first lobotomy I stopped using hooks and brought only a guitar to sing James Taylor songs to the striped bass and I’ve never had a problem

  11. Walshski

    Buddyofmine uses no hooks,he says he goes simply to relax and enjoy it….does zero damage

  12. mccaff

    Stop fly fishing for them? Makes no sense. If you use a 9 weight you bring them in faster or as fast as a spin rod. Say light gear and leave it at that along with the part about keeping them in the water. I fly fish and crush my barbs, release is easy, been doing it for years.

  13. Wayne Baker

    You show a video on all the correct ways of catching them cuz what you described it would be impossible to catch

  14. Mike T

    Whats the best way to crush barbs?. my needle nose pliers arent doing the trick and its hard not getting a hooked in the hand.

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