The Best Catch and Release Techniques (Backed by Science)


Want to know the absolute best techniques to properly catch and release fish?

Want to dispell the myths when it comes to how to handle fish?

We always hear things like holding a fish vertically will kill it because of the strain on its internal organs, that you should leave deep hooks inside fish or that released fish die almost half of time the time.

We decided to get to the bottom of how every angler should catch and release fish and what myths we want to bring to an end to.

Catch and Release Experts: Will Johnson and Greg Stunz

To shed some light on this important issue, we decided to bring in two experts to talk about it: Will Johnson and Dr. Greg Stunz.

Will is the director of development for the Building Conservation Trust – a nonprofit organization affiliated with the Coastal Conservation Association that focuses on preventing and rebuilding fisheries affected by habitat degradation.

Building Conservation Trust Director of Development Will Johnson
Building Conservation Trust Director of Development Will Johnson.

Greg has a Ph.D. in Marine Biology and dedicates his life to conservation studies (aka he’s the go-to guy for studies like catch and release fishing).

He is the director of the Center for Sportfish Science and Conservation and is also a professor at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.

Here a photo of Greg being interviewed for Discovery Channel Shark Week.

Greg Stunz Shark Week
Dr. Greg Stunz being interviewed for a Discovery Channel Shark Week program.

These guys have dedicated their lives to the conservation of our saltwater fisheries. They use scientific evidence to identify and solve issues that affect our fisheries.

In this special episode, we go over a plethora of issues related to proper handling and releasing fish, such as:

  • Devices to safely release offshore fish
  • Proper inshore handling practices
  • General practices for catch and release fishing
  • The biggest threats to our fisheries

Check out this week’s podcast episode in the video below.

Fish Strong Podcast Video

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Click on the play button below to listen to the podcast right here on our site. You can also click either button below to go directly to iTunes or Stitcher to download the episode.

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stitcher fish strong podcast

Do you have questions about how to properly handle fish or how to release them safely? Let us know in the comments below!

Note: Don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE to the Fish Strong podcast on iTunes or Google Play.

Venting Tools vs. Descending Devices

hogfish on the reef
Fish such as snapper and grouper have swim bladders and need to be vented or released using a descending tool.

One of the subjects we delved into on this episode was how to safely release offshore fish with swim bladders such as grouper and snapper.

Two devices are commonly used to help safely release offshore bottom fish: venting tools and descending devices.

Venting tools are hollow large-gauge needles. These needles are used to make a small puncture behind the pectoral fin in the fish’s swim bladder.

Venting fish allows anglers to release pressurized gases from the fish’s swim bladder. This, in turn, allows the fish to return to the bottom of the water column to safety.

Not venting fish results in floating fish that are an easy meal for other predators or death for the fish.

Descending devices take the release a step further and will physically take fish back down to the bottom. The device does this by using a lip gaffing-release tool and some form of weight to take the fish down in the water column.

There is a debate by many on what practice is best for the fish. Greg is a big proponent of the descending device, while other fishermen are big fans of properly venting fish. You can see our guide on how to vent fish here.

No matter what, properly releasing fish is crucial to conservation and to ensure that we have this opportunity for the generations to come.

Learn More About The Insider Fishing Club

Do Your Part: Get Involved 

Creating reef for fishing
A reef is created off South Padre Island, TX in a project through Building Conservation Trust and CCA Texas.

As Will and Greg said in the podcast, there are a ton of ways to get involved with the Center for Sportfish Science and Conservation, the Building Conservation Trust and the Coastal Conservation Association.

You can find more information by following the links below:

Click here for the Center for Sportfish Science and Conservation.

Go here for the Building Conservation Trust.

Click here for the Coastal Conservation Association.

It is a noble cause to get involved with any of these organizations. Overall it contributes to the greater good of the fisheries we hold so dear to our hearts.


Greg Stunz shark tag
Greg Stunz tags and releases a shark in Texas.

Knowing how to properly handle and catch and release fish is important for inshore, offshore and every kind of fishing in between.

We’re not saying that you shouldn’t keep fish. We love to keep and cook up fresh fish in some of our favorite recipes.

But we also want anglers to practice ethical fishing. Don’t keep more fish than you will eat. Learn how to release undersized and unwanted fish back into the water to grow bigger and breed.

It’s on all of us to conserve this precious resource we all love. We need to make sure we all do our part to save it.

If you have any questions or comments about fish handling and catch and release fishing, let us know in the comments below.

To learn more about the Insider Fishing Club, click here now.

P.S. – To see all of the past podcast episodes, click here now.

Tight lines!

Related Posts:

1. The Complete Guide to Catch, Photo, & Release Fishing

2. How To Properly Catch & Release Fish (Without Killing Them)

3. Are You Making These 3 Deadly Mistakes When Releasing Snook?

Related Course: 

Inshore Slammer: Guarantees You’ll Be Catching More Redfish, Snook, & Seatrout Per Hour Than Ever Before

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Steve Peterson
4 years ago

Appreciate the thought but this video is just boring. You could spend five minutes with pics like you do every day and show how to handle and release fish. This video was miss-named…, should have been named and introduced as a CCA volunteer vid. By the way there are more fishermen than ever before…, exactly the opposite of what these guys are saying.

Rich cope
4 years ago

Have small, 13 acre pond/ lake.Will catch and release only eventually lead to smaller fish

5 years ago

Excellent information! Teaches us how to properly handle and release fish. There are so many opinions thrown at us that it can be confusing. This really helps! Thank you for this info! Tight Lines!

David Kirby
5 years ago

Thank for pulling together people in the know on how to handle fish and conservation of our resources. I’m 70 years old and am new to salt water fishing so these type of podcast are extremely helpful to me. Keep up the good work and I’m reading and viewing everything i can to “catch up”. Any good positive advice you can pass along I’m listening because I’m a life long learner.

Rich Despault
5 years ago

Excellent podcast, I really enjoyed the experts opinion and it corrected some of my misunderstandings. By the way, I have changed all of my top-water bait hooks to single hooks.

Bruce Somers
5 years ago

Great job guys! I really enjoyed this podcast and learned a lot from it. Three major takeaways:
1 be gentle and your released fish will survive

2 work to preserve and enhance habitat

3 be respectful and encouraging to you fellow anglers. Teach in positie ways. The message will be better recievrd!


Do what the “SMART ANGLERS” are doing and join the Insider Club.

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