What Percent of Catch and Release Fish Die? [Here Is The Truth]

What Percent of Catch and Release Fish Die

Catch and release is very popular among recreational anglers, and in some locations, it is even mandatory (if writen on your's fishing license). Of course, you have to use proper equipment to be able to safely release the fish.

This method is only successful if you know how to release the fish carefully in order for the fish to survive. Luckily, there are tools that will help you do it.

But, what percent of catch and release fish die and is this method always successful? It is hard to answer this question precisely, but some estimates say that around 5% to 20% of the fish will die. As an angler, you can help reduce this number.

It is important to know how to release the fish without causing too much damage. Injured fish will not survive, and there is no point of releasing it.

There are numerous benefits of catch and release fishing, and the most important one is maintaining healthy fish population in the water you are fishing in.

Here I will tell you more about catch and release mortality, and give you some tips on how to properly unhook and release your catch.



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What Percent of Catch and Release Fish Die?

It is extremely hard to give a precise answer because it is almost impossible to follow released fish. Depending on a location, estimates go from as low a 2%mortality rate, to as high as 20%.

Resilience among fish species is different, and some species can survive a lot more than the others. In addition to that, some fish are caught multiple times, especially in smaller waters, so those have less chance to survive.

When you take the fish out of the water, you are increasing stress level, and that can have a bad impact on fish metabolism.

Will the fish survive also depends on how long was it out of the water, and how you handle it. I will tell you more about this a bit later.

What Percent of Fish Survive Catch and Release?

What percent of catch and release fish die gives you the answer about how many of them will live. Estimates say that 80% – 98% can survive. So, it is safe to assume that survival rate it roughly 90% This is actually quite high.

Fish that die after being released may have died to mishandling, or they were already old and in bad health, so this catch and release event just speeded up the natural process.

Survival rate also depends on where the fish was hooked. Lip hooking gives very high chances of survival, while gill hooking reduces this chance significantly.

Larger wounds caused by hooks can lead to infections. Wounds on gills or deep in the fish throat may never heal at all. So, it is possible for a fish to die although you released it.

Smaller wounds, usually around the lips, may heal fast. Fish that was hooked on a lip, handled gently, and released fast, has a very high chance of survival.

And the last thing you have to consider when it comes to survival rate is depth from where the fish was taken. If you land it from very deep waters, mostly during deep sea fishing, air bladders of fish can suffer irreparable damage.

What Percent of Catch and Release Fish Die - Carp

How do you Catch and Release Fish Humanely?

Catch and release fishing is only successful if done right. First of all, you need hooks that are not barbed. Circle hooks are ideal because they prevent deep hooking.

When the fish is hooked and you retrieve it close, use a net to safely land it. Scared fish will jump around, and it can get injured. Some species also have sensitive skin.

Place the fish on the unhooking mat and avoid contact with the ground. If necessary, use unhooking tools to remove the hook.

In some cases, you can do it by hand. Gently slide the hook out in the direction it came in. Don’t pull it or wiggle it.

Do it fast but careful. Reduce the time that fish stays out of the water. Take a fast picture and gently release the fish back into the water. Don’t throw it, let it swim away.

What are the Benefits of Catch and Release Fishing?

Benefits of catch and release fishing are mostly related to maintaining abundant populations. When you release small fish, you give it a chance to grow up and reproduce.

When you release large and healthy specimens, you are enabling them to reproduce and spread their genes to create more strong and healthy fish.

By releasing fish, you are not harming the natural balance in the food chain. Predatory species control numbers of prey fish, and abundance of prey fish keeps the predator numbers high. By fishing and killing any of those, you are also influencing others that are not targeted by anglers.

Catch and release also enables other anglers to enjoy fishing in waters full of fish.

As you can see, this method is good for the fish, but also for your fellow anglers, and new generations of anglers that will come after you.

What Percent of Catch and Release Fish Die - Benefits


What percent of catch and release fish die depends on you and other anglers. Careful handling of fish may significantly increase survival rate. Some estimates say that around 90% of the caught and released fish can survive.

This largely depends on hooks used, time spend out of the water, hooking place, and the process of unhooking and releasing fish.

Nothing is 100% sure, and you can`t be completely sure that the fish you released will survive, however, you can do everything in your power to increase its chances.

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I am Siniša Pintar (friends call me Sina), the guy behind Slo-fishing.si and eBook writer. This site is base camp for fishing enthusiasts from all over the world. I love fishing and want to share all my stories, knowledge and my experience with any and all potential anglers. Read more ...

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