Re: Age old question : catch/release or catch/keep ?
I also think that we should not assume that all folks who release fish are doing it properly. I've seen guys gill grab a trout for a photo and then pitch it back into the water.
The following is a good set of guidlines to safely release fish... especially trout.
Catch & Release Guidelines
These guidelines are generic but remembering them will give all species of fish a greater chance of survival. A fish is too valuable to be caught and enjoyed only once, be responsible.
Use barbless hooks, or pinch the barb flat with pliers.
If you use a net, use one made for catch and release. It is less harmful to fish, scales, gills and eyes. Only net your fish if it is the only way to control it.
Wet your hands when handling fish. Dry hands and gloves will remove its protective mucous (slime) coating and scales. These protective layers help prevent infection by waterborne disease.
Do not beach a fish or let it flop around the deck of the boat.
Try not to remove the fish from the water. If you must, be quick and gentle, do not squeeze the fish.
Do not hold the fish near the gills or eyes. Needle nose pliers, hemostats, de-hookers etc., will speed up the removal of a deep set hook.
To revive the fish, hold it under the belly and by the tail, keep it in an upright position underwater and do not move the fish back and forth. There is a currently difference in opinion amongst the experts about whether or not to move the fish back and forth when reviving. We will keep you posted with any statistical information as it comes available. (this is also a good time to get a measurement and take a photo).
If you are fishing in a river or stream, hold the fish facing the current. Be patient and give the fish as much time as it needs to recover and swim away on its own.
Use the right tools!
The most important survival factors are:
Line test - Always use the heaviest line possible for each species of fish. Again: the longer you fight a fish, the more lactic acid is built up, the more exhausted it becomes, the greater the chance it will not survive.
Hook Location - It would be ideal if all fish were hooked in either the upper or lower lip, unfortunately, this is not always the case. When fishing with small flies the chance for hooking a fish deep in the gullet or in the gills is present. Try to back the hook out the way it went in. Never pull on the line when the hook is lodged deep in the gullet. Cutting the line and returning the fish to the water as quickly as possible will give it its greatest chance for survival. The longer a fish is out of water and the more you practice your surgical techniques, the less the fish has a chance to live.
Water Temperature - Playing a fish for an extended period of time in warm water increases its chance of dying. When the water temperature is high fish tire much more rapidly due to the increase of lactic acid that builds in their system. When fishing warm water get the fish to you as soon as possible, use a heavier line test than usual.