Does Holding Fish By Jaw Kill The Fish?

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  Asked by Sam - Does Holding Fish By Jaw Kill The Fish? :
I'm often grabbing fish by the jaw when I lift them out of the water, but I wonder if this is actually hurting or killing the fish handling them this way.  I do it because its easy and thats what they do on tv  :-)   But I do wonder if this really causes harm since I'm releasing the fish and that would defeat the whole purpose of catch and release when fishing.

Anonymous Says:
I saw an article (just searched for it again and couldnt find it) where they were handling fish by the jaw only and tagged the fish as an experiment to see if it was really hurting the fish.  Quite of few fish ended up being dead days later, they thought it was because handling the fish by the jaw damaged the jaw muscle or tore the jaw muscle in a way where the fish couldnt eat.  Fishermen assume that because fish swim away that everything was fine, but that doesn't mean the survive.

Of course this probably also matters based on size of the fish, because a heavy fish puts alot of pressure on the jaw if you use a lipgrip or grab with hand, where a small fish probably doesn't matter and may not hurt it, thats just my guess.  If I'm releasing a big fish I try to just unhook in the water with pliers and if I'm have to handle it I always try to support the weight with net or set it down on boat or land so all the weight is supported.

Anonymous Says:
Of course temperature matters alot to I'm sure, so many variables.  If its 95 degrees and sunny, obviously you want to handle a fish as little as possible and get it back in the water.  If you are keeping it for the frying pan, then use the lip grip or grab the jaw as its not going to matter anyways.  

John Says:
I've often wondered about this also.  I fish for catfish and bass, which I used to always hold by bottom jaw and then release some of them and keep some of them for cooking, but I try to handle them by the jaw alot less now as I wondered if that was doing damage.

Sam Says:
I think the easiest thing is just grab the hook with the pliers and turn upright and lightly shake the fish off using the fish weight without even handling it with your hands. Thats the easiest release method for me.  Pretty quick anyways and little handling.

Anonymous Says:
A good rule of thumb is just handle the fish as little as possible, especially when its a small game fish you plan to release.  You want those to grow up for others to catch, especially if its really hot out be carefull (if on a boat in 90 degree weather, and the boat deck is hot to just touch, I wouldnt lay the fish on it to unhook it).  If it swallows the hook just cut the line as far down as you can, it will rust out and fall out. Support the fish and just unhook it the least violent as you can to get it back in the water.

Anonymous Says:
That giant box of hooks you have in your tackle box could last you a lifetime, just cut the line if it swallows it to far down.  :)

Sometimes when its really hot out, if for some reason I cant get the hook out quickly, I put it back in the water for a few seconds to give it a break.

If you are doing alot of catch and release, take a plies and slightly close off the barb on your hook.  It will make it really easy to unhook fish and will do the least amount of damage.  

Anonymous Says:
Pliers is what I meant to say to pinch the barb.

Anonymous Says:

I found these tips online on DNR fish and game website:

Handle fish as little as possible and only with wet hands. This reduces the removal of fish slime, which protects the fish from infection and aids in swimming.

A knotless, rubber-coated landing net is ideal when handling a fish since it supports the fish’s body weight.

Remember, fish swim horizontally! Never hold a fish by its jaw, gills or eyes.

When holding a fish that has teeth, use a gripping tool to support the front of the fish, and use the other hand under the belly to evenly support the fish's weight.

Never hold on to or tow a fish not allowed to be harvested to a different location to weigh or measure it.

Carefully remove the hook if possible. If the fish is gut-hooked or especially large or agitated, cut the line as close to the hook as you can while the fish is still in the water.

Reduce handling by using a dehooking tool.

Always release fish head first into the water.

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