Fellow Alaskan Fisherman-
I wanted to start a thread that has information on how to practice catch and release fishing on the ice. I have posted some links to articles below, and I also wanted to share some of my own observations. Alaska's fish are an important resource in addition to an integral part of many ecosystems. While fish like salmon can (usually) sustain an intensive harvest and still maintain a healthy population, many of the fish in our lakes and rivers are NOT capable of the same type of intensive harvest.
It is for those species (Lake Trout, Charr, Burbot, Grayling, Wild Rainbows, Pike, Sheefish) that we as fisherman have a RESPONSIBILITY not only to ourselves but future generations of Alaskans to ensure that the populations remain healthy and abundant. Not saying that ADFG does not know what they are talking about when the set the daily harvest limits and retentions sizes, but they are so underfunded and understaffed, I believe thier data may be in need of updating. Long Lake is a perfect example: NO LAKE TROUT POPULATION??? How many here have caught young lake trout there?
I would encourage setting your own personal standards, such as only keeping burbot over 28", or releasing large (27"+) lake trout. The idea is to make a plan you can live with that not only makes you happy and rewards your angling efforts(if catching is not enough), but sustains the ecosystem as well.
Catch and release tactics: I will just share a few things that I have picked up in my time fishing that help ensure that you can enjoy catching trophy fish, and still send them back to the depths unharmed (though maybe a bit shaken up) to catch another day:
Most importantly, if you are going to release a fish, NEVER HANDLE OR TOUCH THE GILLS OF THE FISH! They have protective plates over these areas for a reason. Even slight damage to these sensitive organs can be fatal for fish. For non-toothy fish, grab them by the bottom lip and hoist them up, and for Pike or other toothy fish, have heavy gloves ready or grab them behind the top of their head. This is the NUMBER ONE reason fish released die after swimming away.
When fishing deep water (40+ ft), bring fish up slowly and allow them to naturally adjust their swim bladders and equalize the pressure. After all, isn't the fight the best part? Why end it so quickly by tightening the drag and horseing the fish to the surface. Enjoy it!
When you get the fish to the surface, be prepared to remove the hook and take photos as quickly as possible. The eyes of fish are the first parts to freeze and that can happen very quickly in 20 below temps. Prolonged exposure to the cold will surely kill the fish. The quicker you can get that beast back into the water, the better!
Also when landing a fish, try to keep them off bare ice. The protective slime coating on the fish will quickly (< 20 secs) freeze to the ice and tear off the fish. This slime layer is one of the fishes primary immune systems, and tearing off one or both sides of the slime can expose the fish to problems even if it swims happily down the hole.
Lastly, if the hook is taken deep by the fish, either keep the fish to eat or cut your line and let the fish spit the hook later. A hook will rust out of a fish in a couple of days with no serious damage provided that the fish was handled gently and the above items were followed. We can always buy more tackle and hooks, but it's tough to buy a 30" rainbow trout.
I hope that some of you out there may find some of this information inforamtive and useful. I did not want this post to come off like a rant, but reading it over it sounds like I am cramming my beliefs down your throats. Well, so be it. The fish in this state are rivaled only by those in the upper most parts of the Canadian wilderness, lets keep it that way!
If anyone would like to send me a message regarding other ways to keep Alaska's trophy stocks around for future generations, please feel free!
Safe fishing to all,
Taken from Anglerguide.com:
Recycle Fish with Catch and Release
Fish can be recycled when you practice catch and release fishing. All fish below the legal minimum length limit must be released. Others that you don't want to keep can also be released. This type of recycling helps to keep the population and natural reproduction of a fish species at a high level in a lake and allows a fish the chance to grow to be an adult. Research shows that lakes need larger-sized fish to keep a balanced population. These strong, fast-growing fish have survived the early years when most fish die from natural causes. These fish are the primary spawners and major predators.
A fish's body slows down a lot in the winter and reduces its need for oxygen. This helps make catch and release easy! Remember to handle the fish quickly and gently; do not squeeze the fish. Use a needlenose pliers to remove a lip hook. If the fish has swallowed the hook, cut the line and it will dissolve inside the fish in a short time. Ease the fish back into the water, don't throw it. Next time you catch that big one, you'll be glad you recycled others!