Recreational anglers, whether weekend warriors, world record hunters or tournament competitors, are becoming increasingly conscious of the need to conserve the fish they love to pursue.
More and more tournaments are adopting an all-release format, necessitating a standard for released catches. Answering this need, the International Game Fish Association (IGFA) has codified a new set of Release Rules to clarify and support the ideals of ethical recreational angling.
It is the IGFA's hope that establishing a definition for an "official IGFA release" will not only institute a standard by which anglers can compare releases, but also - and more importantly - encourage anglers to continue releasing fish.
At a recent annual board meeting in January, the IGFA Board of Trustees approved the following:
IGFA will consider a fish officially released when one of the following actions is completed:
A. The deckman is able to grab the leader.
B. The swivel hits the rod tip.
C. The connection (knot, splice, etc.) between the leader and the mainline/double line passes through the rod tip.
Leader length must conform to current IGFA tackle requirements. Specifically, for line up to and including 20-pound test, the leader may not exceed 15 feet. In lines over 20-pound test, the leader may not be in excess of 30 feet. All leader measurements are inclusive of the lure or hook arrangement and are measured to the bend of the last hook.
These new rules set a standard for a released catch and make release formats more accessible for tournaments, many of which already use IGFA rules as the basis for their tournament rules.
By establishing rules for what constitutes a release, the IGFA hopes to facilitate more fish making it back to the water alive and in the best possible health.
While adopting this rule change, the IGFA saw the unique and beneficial opportunity to create the following recommendations for best practices for safe and ethical release of fish.
1. Circle hooks are encouraged when fishing with live or dead natural bait.
2. The hook should be removed if possible, and if removing it will not cause additional harm to angler or fish.
3. If the hook cannot be removed, the leader should be cut as close to the hook as possible.
4. The deckman should refrain from manually breaking, or "popping" leaders, because this can cause additional harm to fish, especially those not hooked in the jaw.
5. Ample time should be taken to revive exhausted fish by gently moving them forward in the water to get water flowing over the gills.
The IGFA is proud to be taking a progressive part in the effort with these changes and recommendations.
(Lahaina News columnist Donnell Tate is the IGFA representative for Maui County.)