The following guidelines outline voluntary management practices for tournament anglers and organizers to use when catching, holding, and releasing redfish during tournaments. These basic guidelines increase the chances of survival of fish caught by hook and line.
Catch and release
- Avoid using stainless hooks. These hooks do not rust out if a fish is gut-hooked and you have to cut the line.
- Land your fish quickly.
- If you are not placing your fish in a livewell, leave your fish in the water during release.
- Use a de-hooking device to remove hooks. Using needle-nose pliers may injure a fish's mouth. If the fish is gut-hooked, cut the line and do not attempt to remove the hook.
- When releasing a fish that has been held in a livewell, release the fish head-first.
- Revive fish by moving them forward (not back and forth) in the water to promote water flow over the gills.
- Avoid picking up fish by the lip or lower jaw or holding the fish vertically.
- Avoid holding a fish by its gill plate or touching its gills.
- Minimize the amount of time that you handle a fish to reduce stress. Release or place your fish in a livewell as quickly as possible.
- Always handle fish with bare wet hands and not gloves, towels, etc. to avoid removing a fish's slime. The slime coating protects the fish from disease.
- Non-recirculating livewells should be aerated continuously with air (bubble) stones.
- Never fill your livewells in areas of poor water quality (e.g. areas with high water temperatures, muddy areas, etc.). Avoid filling your livewell near marinas and boat docks.
- Use large livewells. State regulations require a minimum livewell size of 18 gallons. However, a minimum livewell size of 25 gallons is recommended. Larger livewells reduce bruising and damage to fins, allow more room for fish to move around, and have more water for the dilution of waste products.
- The water temperature in the livewell should be maintained as close to the temperature of the water body from where the fish was harvested. Chilling livewell water or allowing livewell water to overheat may cause thermal shock if the livewell water temperature varies more than 5°F from the water body that the fish was harvested from.
- Some tournament formats require the use of catch bags to transport redfish for measuring and weigh-in. Redfish Tournament Exemption permits require that only one redfish may be transported in a catch bag at a time.
- When transporting redfish with a catch bag, the bag should be opened to allow aerated water at the appropriate temperature to flow through the bag as much as possible