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Practice responsible recreation: Use best methods for catch-and-release fishing

Adaptation Strategies and Actions

Practice responsible recreation: Use best methods for catch-and-release fishing

Adaptation type: 
Recreation management and opportunties
Volunteer involvement


Practice Careful Catch and Release

Increases in temperature due to climate change have a wide range of effects on coastal fish 3. Each species of fish can only tolerate a certain window of conditions 4,5, and many fish populations in New England have declined in part due to stress from warming ocean temperatures 2.

Fishing also causes stress in fish, primarily through the buildup of lactic acid. Fighting a fish as it is being reeled in by hook and line or other fishing gear for long periods of time, particular in warm waters, can increase stress.

Many fish are unlawful to keep due to management initiatives used to protect populations from overfishing. As such, many fish must be released after being caught by recreational and commercial fishing. Many techniques exist to increase the chances of survival of fish after they are caught (e.g. by hook and line) and released.

The direct and indirect combined effects of fishing and climate change will have compounding and uncertain impacts on coastal fish. Therefore, it is important to maximize the survival of fish that are being released in order to help sustain healthy stocks.

Although many future environmental changes may be difficult to control, there are direct actions we can take to reduce the impacts of fishing on coastal fish.


Use best practices for catch-and-release fishing

Source: Joe Overlook,
(Source: Joe Overlook,
Source: Joe Overlook,
(Source: Joe Overlook,
Source: Joe Overlook,
(Source: Joe Overlook,

Plan ahead

  • Discuss handling and release scenarios prior to trip
  • Know the regulations and guidelines from resource agencies when harvesting fish or shellfish
  • Organize appropriate gear before the fishing trip

Use proper fishing gear

  • Have proper equipment to remove hooks (needle nose pliers, hemostat, or hook remover)
  • Use corrodible, non stainless steel hooks so that hooks dissolve in water over time if they are left in the fish’s mouth
  • Use circle hooks to decrease likelihood of swallowing hook
  • If you plan for catch and release, flatten barbs
  • Use appropriate size tackle

Use proper handling techniques

  • Bring in fish quickly to reduce exhaustion
  • If you are not using circle hooks, set hook immediately to prevent fish from swallowing hook
  • Leave fish in the water if possible, even for photos
  • Measure fish in water if you can
  • Wet your hands when handling fish to reduce the removal of protective mucus
  • Avoid squeezing fish
  • Using a handling net may reduce the amount of time needed to land a fish, reduce injury and stress to fish
Source: Joe Overlook,
(Source: Joe Overlook,













Release and revive

  • If fish swallows hook, cut the line. Do not try to remove the hook if the fish swallowed it
  • If fish appears exhausted and does not freely swim away, you can orient the fish to where it is facing upstream to circulate water through the gills
  • Avoid releasing early, hold the fish until it swims away freely

Scope and Constraints

One-time action
Ongoing action
Minimal or no cost
Municipal or county jurisdiction required
State jurisdiction required
National jurisdiction required


National Fish Wildlife Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy Goal 1: Conserve habitat, diversity, and connectivity
National Fish Wildlife Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy Goal 2: Manage species, habitats, ecosystem functions
National Fish Wildlife Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy Goal 3: Enhance capacity for management
National Fish Wildlife Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy Goal 7: Reduce non-climate stressors


1. Allen B.J.M., P. Domenici, P.L. Munday, and M.I. McCormick. 2015. Feeling the heat: The effect of acute temperature changes on predator-prey interactions in coral reef fish. Conserv Physiol 3: cov011; doi:10.1093/conphys/cov11.

2. Collie J.S., A.D. Wood, and H.P. Jeffries. 2008. Long-term shifts in the species composition of a coastal fish community. Can J Fish Aquat Sci, 65:135201365. doi:10.1139/F08-048

3. Crozier L.G., J.A. Hutchings. 2013. Plastic and evolutionary responses to climate change in fish. Evolutionary Applications 7:68-87.

4. Farrell A.P., E.J. Eliason, E. Sandblom, and T.D. Clark. 2009. Fish cardiovascular physiology in an era of climate change. Can. J. Zool. 87:835-851.

5. Hare, J.A., W.E. Morrison, M.W. Nelson, N.M Stachura, E.J. Teeters, R.B. Griffis, et al. 2016. A vulnerability assessment of fish and invertebrates to climate change on the Northeast U.S. Continental Shelf. PLoS ONE 11: e0146756. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0146756.

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