DNR offers tips on how to catch, release fish

Walleye and crappie caught in deeper than 30 feet of water might not survive if released


Anglers who intend to release any of the fish they catch can boost the chances those fish will survive by following best practices for catch and release:

  • Plan fishing trips around the weather and the species, keeping in mind that cold and cool water fish such as brown and brook trout, and walleye and northern pike, might experience more stress during hot weather. Then choose the right tackle for the job and avoid “playing” a fish too long — land it quickly to reduce the buildup of lactic acid in the body.
  • Set the hook quickly to avoid hooking a fish in the stomach or gills. Before handling the fish, anglers should wet their hands to prevent removal of the fish’s protective slime coating. If possible, unhook and release the fish while it is still in the water. If a hook is deep in the fish, cut the line and leave the hook in the fish.
  • When holding the fish out of the water, support it with both hands using a firm, gentle grip. It is OK to measure the fish and take a photo – however, minimize the time the fish is out of the water. Anglers intending to release a fish should not place it on a stringer or in a live well.
  • To release a fish, hold it horizontally in the water by cradling it under its belly. If needed, revive the fish by slowly moving it forward in the water until it swims away. An alternative to this method is cupping your hand and splashing water into the fish’s mouth and out the gills while holding the fish on the surface of the water. Harvest a fish that can be legally kept if it is bleeding extensively or cannot right itself in the water.

Walleye and crappie caught in deeper than 30 feet of water might not survive if released, so avoid these depths if planning to practice catch and release.
Find other catch-and-release tips related to fishing equipment, and a video of how to handle large fish like flathead catfish, lake sturgeon or muskellunge, at the DNR catch and release page (

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