It really does amaze me that even today there are still people without the slightest idea how to look after a fish on the bank. I guess that bad practice breeds just that. I was looking around for some literature on handling fish on the bank, and it is surprisingly hard to come by.
Looking after our fish on the bank is our responsibility and duty, this is the most vulnerable time for the fish as it is outside of its natural environment.
Ok, so what are the best ways of making sure our fish are safe?
Firstly the equipment you have on the bank i.e. net and Mat needs to be of sufficient size for the biggest possible fish in the water.
A good 42″ net is the standard for carp fishing small nets can actually damage fish causing them to fold up once inside increasing the chance of breaking a fin. Once netted bite through your line ad get the rod out the way. The correct way to lift a fish out of the water is to collapse down the net and rolling up the net.
Before lifting make sure that all the fish’s fins are flat against its body, this can’t be stressed enough and I will continue to repeat it, as the amount of fish I have seen on runs waters with damage through neglect or just ignorance is unacceptable, after all, we all like to catch pretty fish don’t we?
The next bit of kit you will need is an unhooking mat of some type. The bigger and thicker the mat the better! There are so many cheap and nasty mats on the market I sometimes wonder if the people who designed them have actually ever been fishing.
A decent mat will not cost you a fortune; in fact a good mat can be made at home if you are on a tight budget. In my opinion, the best mat on the market is the Nix Angling mat pictured below.
The mats are 48″ long 30″ wide and 2″ thick and capable of protecting the largest of fish. They also feature a Velcro flap that covers the whole mat, enabling you to cover the fish over if it gets lively, and a generous kneeling pad. Nix gear is a little bit hard to come by up north, but now Yateley Angling Centre does mail-order you should be able to get hold of one if you want one.
Make sure that your mat is wet and then once the fish is on the Mat unroll the net and unhook the fish, make sure that you have a pair of forceps at arms reach from the mat to remove the hook if you should need them. Move the rig away from the fish and out of harm’s way. Also before handling the fish remove all your jewelry!
Next, we come to the weighing. Slide the fish into a wet weigh sling again making sure that all the fins are flat to the body. Before lifting the fish up on the scales it is a good idea to check the cord on the sling, as sometimes this can rot and weaken. Only lift the fish a little way off the ground and make sure this is done over your unhooking mat.
After weighing the fish it is likely that you will want a photograph of your catch. At this point, I like to return the fish to the water for a little while whilst I sort out the camera equipment and find someone to do the honors.
If you only have to walk a short distance to the next angler then I would leave the fish in the water in my net.
However, if you have to walk any distance or phone somebody to come down to do the pictures it will be necessary to sack your fish. The reasons for sacking a fish rather than leaving it in the net are as follows:
· The fish is prone to bird attacks
· The fish could be exposed to high levels of sunlight
· Low oxygen levels due to the shallowness of landing nets
However, when sacking a fish it is important that the following is followed.
- · Don’t sack a fish for an excessive period of time (a couple of hours max)
- Use a sack with a good water transfer i.e. Solar stay safe carp sack
- Don’t sack a fish close to weed as the weed depletes the waters oxygen levels
- Make sure that the sack is securely fastened to the bank
- Ensure that the cord on the sack is a good length (10-12 ft)
- Wade out with the fish and expel all the air trapped in the sack, this will allow the fish to find a comfortable depth, without being trapped in the upper layers of the water.
- Make sure that you sack the fish in at least 4ft of water
When taking the fish out of the water in the sack ensure that the fish’s fins are again flush to its body, and pick up the fish both at the head end and the tail end and NOT by gathering up the sack forcing the fish to bend.
Once you have your photographer`s you are ready to take a picture of your catch. In an ideal situation, there will be several people around to act as goalies and to make sure the fish is kept wet through the photography process.
When the pictures are being taken don’t start waving the fish around at silly angles. Hold the fish steady and let the person working the camera move around you. It is important that you pick someone capable of doing the job well so that you get good pictures. If the fish is a little lively on the bank (this is more likely if it has been sacked) don’t drop it on the mat to thrash about, simply roll the fish back on to your wrists. This will stop the fish coming to any damage whatsoever.
After the photo’s it is important to check the fish for any damage caused by the fight or possibly beforehand.
Last but not least it is important to put your catch back properly. Being caught is a very tiring and stressful time for the fish, and it is important to make sure that they go back fully recovered. It is best practice to get in the water with the fish and cradle it until it kicks off strongly.
DON’T LAUNCH IT LIKE A TORPEDO!
Although this may seem a lot to take in, with a little experience the whole process is a very efficient way of getting a fish back quickly whilst minimizing the risk of harm, after all, isn’t this our main priority?