Tanner Wildes

Catch and Release

Catch and release is a vital part of any trophy fishery. Northern Pike and Muskies are no exception, these are slow growing fish and the only way for them to grow to trophy size is through proper catch and release methods. The number one factor attributed to creating a trophy musky and northern pike fishery is catch and release. Proper catch and release practices help ensure a future of a good well balance trophy fishery. Proper angling methods (such as quick-set live bait rigs) and proper fish handling methods (keeping the fish in the water when unhooking, no vertical holds, etc.) will ensure the future of any trophy fishery. Evidence of this has been proven first hand in the United States for both Muskies and Northern Pike where higher average size fish are found where years of catch and release has been practiced properly.

Tanner Wildes
Professional Musky guide


   Mick Brown                                  

Fishing is different in every culture and country. Here in the UK, we have grown to respect the pike and no longer treat it as vermin or food. We see it as a fine sport fish and return our catches to the water. Nearly every anglers returns every pike he catches. We are lucky to live in a society where we do not depend upon the pike for food but have respect for the angler who might like to take a small pike for food once in a while provided that his actions are not detrimental to the future of the fishing or upset other anglers who fish the same water. For this reason we are having problems with Eastern European immigrants who come from different cultures to our own where the taking of fish for food is widely acceptable. This difference in attitudes is causing many problems here at the moment and we are trying to get enforcement to prevent this from happening.

The attitude whereby the pike is respected is a modern phenomena, mainly brought about by the work of The Pike Anglers Club of Great Britain and others acting as individuals. In the last 40 years we have made tremendouis progress and pike fishing as a sport is very good in the UK.

It is possible to fish for pike all year round in the UK in most still waters like lakes and gravel pits. In our rivers there is a close season from March 14th to June 16th that covers all species. The vast majority of pike anglers make their own 'close season' and do not fish when they think the pike is vulnerable. This is mainly in the summer months when the water temperaure is high and oxygen level is low.

We have developped an attitude too, that sees the pike handled with care and respect and Tackle manufacturers like Fox Internatonal, for whom I am a consultant, provide all the equipment neccessary to do so.

We have learnt to value the pikes role in nature and its sporting qualities. When travelling to other countries, we do not like to see pike killed and mistreated but do respect that each country is different and has to make its own rules. This affects our attitude to tourism in these countries. In Ireland for example, we are very dismayed to hear about gill netting by the Fisheries Departments and illegal fishing by local and immigrant anglers who are taking too many fish. We would rather spend our money travelling to countries who have a similar 'catch and release' policy as our own. It seem to be getting better in many countries, particularly Holland and Sweden.

I think my views reflect those of most serious UK pike anglers.

Mick Brown


Dave Lumb

Catch and Release


In the UK catch and release has been the standard approach to coarse (non salmonid) fishing for over fifty years, and is becoming increasingly accepted amongst the salmon and trout angling fraternity. Given the crowded nature of our islands the pressures on our waters are such that over-harvesting would soon see many waters become very poor fisheries indeed.


This is especially so when it comes to pike fishing, as there is much research, and anecdotal evidence, to show that the removal of the biggest pike in a fishery results in an explosion of small pike. The more pike that are removed, the smaller the average size of the pike becomes. This neither benefits the pike angler who wishes to catch large pike, nor the balance of the fishery’s overall stocks. A healthy fish stock balance is dependant upon a balanced predator population.


Since 1977 the Pike Anglers’ Club (PAC) has been promoting the cause of catch and release for pike in the UK, initially in the face of pike being persecuted by angling bodies and fishery managers who saw pike as their enemies. This misapprehension has been largely overturned and pike are now widely seen as a species that is beneficial to healthy fisheries throughout the country. All UK freshwater angling magazines now promote C&R of pike and the correct handling and unhooking procedures required to ensure that the release is successful.


Catch and release of the biggest pike in a population ensures that there is a healthy breeding stock to replace natural mortalities and selectively harvested fish, and to ensure a flourishing and healthy fishery.


Dave Lumb

United Kingdom


The Pike Anglers’ Club site is http://www.pacgb.com


Hans Nordin

Here is a statement from one of Scandinavians most famous and wellknown profiles in Sportfishing from Sweden:

I'm working as a fully professional sportfishingguide, and allso writes books and artikels and have produced more than 35 TV-shows about sportfishing. I'm allso the one person who have registrated the most pikes over 12,00kg in Sweden. This register is hold and kontrolled by the Swedish Sportfishingorganisation "Svenska Sportfiskeförbundet / Sportfishingregistrator Håkan Brugård". Not every one of this big pikes has been Catch & Released. But sins 1992 every one is! My clients sometimes want to take a fish for a feast & eating. And that is ok for me. But never a pike weight in more than 4kg. As fishing get more and more popular and fisherman gets more and more skillfull in catching it is very important that fishes puts back after caught. Otherwise our waters soon will be empty - both talking number of fishes but allso when talking bigger spieces of fishes. When writing artikels and books and making TVprograms and allso on daily basis when working as a guide I have a very important mission - to teach my readers and clients why we put fishes back - and how to do it proparly - for the care of each special fish and for future growing populations. I only welcome clients who accept C & R on this basis abowe.

Best regards

Hans Nordin

Info in english and german language:





Jack Penny

"Why C&R"

I think the best way to approach these subjects is to start with the "why" of catch and release fishing. It boils down to science. Actually, it is very simple science, and it has to do with genetics. Just like us humans, fish are born with a genetic code that transfers to their offspring. Think of it this way; when two humans of large stature breed and have offspring, those offspring will also be of large stature. The same goes for pike, although in their case it is the female who carries the all important growth genes.

When large fish are taken from a body of water, those genetics are also removed. And once most or all big fish are removed, the gene pool becomes depleated. Once this happens, small fish will be all that is left. Possibly forever. And what this means to us as fishermen is, if we want to catch big fish, we must work to keep the genetic pool intact. In other words, if one wants to keep catching big fish, he must release those he does catch.

With that being established, there is a right way and several wrong ways to achieve successful releases. Having good intentions is all well and good, but if the right techniques aren't used, the mortality rate can still be very high. Even if you watch them swim away, they can still die. It's just a case of delayed mortality.

There are several steadfast rules governing successful releases. The best case scenario is to unhook the fish without removing it from the water. On smaller fish, this is not difficult. However, large fish can be challenging. The best way we\ve found to achieve this is with the use of a large landing device like a cradle or a net. Both can be used as a "holding pen" to allow hook removal while the fish remains in the water. However, this is not always possible. First, if a fish is to be handled out of the water, make sure both hands are wet. This will minimize slime loss. The slime that pike are coated with is very important to their survival. It fights off harmful bacteria and infectons. If a pike is handled with dry hands, slime will be removed and before long, it will develop a bacterial skin infection. It may take awhile, but the pike's fate is sealed.

Secondly, if a fish is hooked deep, it is best to either back the lure out through the gill flaps or to cut off the hook points with a quality cutter. We like the Knipex cutters available through Esox Angler Magazine.

One important thing to remember is to minimize the fish's time out of the water. You may ask, "How long is too long"? Imagine this: how long could you hold your breath underwater? It is the same for pike out of the water, so if a photograph is needed, the camera needs to be readied while the fish is still in the water. Better yet, during the fight. Then the fish can be quickly held up, with both hands wet and supporting the internal organs, while the angler's partner quickly snaps off a shot or two. If additional photos are needed, lower the fish back into the water to catch it's breath before snapping off more.

When releasing a pike, one must allow it to revive itself before turning it loose. Hold the fish, still in the water, by it's mid-section. Don't pump it back and forth. Instead, just hold it steady. Before long, one will feel the fish tense up. Reach back and grab it at the base of the tail and give it a slight squeeze. If it is ready, it will usually take off in a burst of speed once it feels it's tail being squeezed. If not, support the midsection again and give it more time to recuperate. One trick I've found is while supporting the pike in the water with both hands under it's midsection, slightly put pressure on it's underside with your fingers and run your hands back and forth, keeping the fish stationary. This sometimes seems to resuscitate them quicker.

Another suggestion I have is a subscription to Esox Angler Magazine. We have a column dealing with catch and release in every issue. Very good information on a very important subject. Also, send us photos of your catches. We love to print photos of fishermen and women holding their catches. Release photos are even better!

Jack Penny

Pete Maina

In North America, northern pike are one of the most prized of gamefish species. Many anglers specifically target these great sport fish. Northern pike are are a slow-growing fish -- at the top of the foodchain -- and therefore present in low densities. In some areas, they share the "top-of-the-chain" position with the muskellunge, another very prized species.

Fisheries managers have long ago come to the conclusion that because of the characteristics of slow-growth and low densities, protecting these fish from overharvest by any means, is not only vital to the overall health of fisheries, but absolutely necessary to maintain any level of quality angling opportunities for these species. Historically, in many cases, increased angling pressure (and other harvest methods) have nearly completely decimated populations of Esox Lucius (Pike) and Esox Masquinongy (muskie) to the point of nearly zero angling success. Or, specific overharvest of larger, healthier specimens, has created situations of overpopulation of smaller, slower growing esox, crammed into a specific size-structure dictated by desirable harvest size. These situations create more problems, as fisheries' forage base become out-of-balance and any quality angling opportunities for the species are eliminated.

Depending on fisheries, near total protection (catch & release fishing) of the esox species from harvest -- or specifically protecting the larger fish in the
size structure, has been successful in bringing these fisheries back into balance -- and providing some of the best quality angling in decades. There is
little doubt at all these days, by fisheries experts or those who enjoy the angling opportunities created maintained -- that practicing catch and release
fishing for esox species is a necessity for proper management of the species and fisheries.

Pete Maina
Esox Angler

Joe Bednar

Greetings Fellow Esox Fan,

Having been fortunate enough here in the states to fish many pike waters
where few pike have been released as well as waters where pike have been
spared any significant non-release pressure, I can attest to the drastic
differences in pike populations and size structure in these two types of
waters. Substantial to heavy removal leaves pike populations either
over-run with stunted small pike where spawning success is high, thus
leading to poor quality, slow-growing, unhealthy fisheries with serious
impact on the balance of other species; or very low density populations,
even extinction of pike on waters like our heavily developed lakes where
spawning success is poor. These lakes also display poorer, unbalanced
populations of the fish pike prey on since the pike's population control
benefits are not present.

Conversely, waters with near total release of pike (or essentially no
pressure on pike like protected wilderness waters) feature good, but not
overly high numbers of pike of all sizes, very balanced fisheries with
healthy, balanced populations of the other fish native to those waters.
People who believe pike are harmful to other species have apparently not
enjoyed essentially untouched water where man has not affected nature's
balance. Pike and the other species in these waters have lived in harmony
for eons without wiping each other out, indeed quite the opposite has
occurred. Diverse, balanced fisheries that are just incredible and a joy to

Hope this helps a bit, good piking to you!

Joe Bednar


Keith Kavajecz
Professional Walleye Fisherman

This is a great cause to be involved with. In the United States we have seen a tremendous gain in popularity of Catch and Release. Even in my lifetime, I have seen anglers that were always “meat fisherman” change their attitudes to one of “Selective Harvest”. Taking fish they are going to eat, releasing the larger “breeding” fish and in some cases (like big Pike/Musky) going to a complete C&R program. Two things that have helped with this tremendously are digital cameras (so instantaneous bragging can occur) and excellent graphite replica’s (for the wall hangers).

Because of this, there has also been a dramatic improvement in overall fish populations. We might have some of the best Pike, Walleye and Bass fishing ever experienced in the United States right now. I think a big part of that improvement is from Catch and Release or Selective Harvest attitudes.

One of the important aspects of a program like this is to make sure anglers are educated on the correct way to handle fish to be released:
· Proper holding methods for big fish
· Quick Set rigging
· Quick fish handling
· Efficiently handling fish by using the right tools
· Using wet hands to reduce slim loss
· Etc.

After all releasing a fish is only part of it, the fish must also survive.

For the small percentage of mortality that might occur - nature will take care of that . Scavenger fish, birds and animals will take care of fish that don’t
survive. These fish will not go to waste and the fish that do survive the big bonus - obviously they would not be swimming any more if ever fish must be

I am a strong proponent of Catch and Release and Selective Harvest and suggest that your organizations support it also.

Keith Kavajecz
Professional Walleye Fisherman
The Next Bite TV




Larry Ramsell


It has been proven by scientific study here in the US, that catch and

release of muskellunge (first cousin to the pike) works exceedingly well

with proper handling, and contributes to the future fishery. Several

re-captures of tagged fish clearly document that the species Esox continue

to grow and get re-caught again and again, providing additional sportfishing

for all anglers.


Muskie regards,

Larry Ramsell




Die irischen Bestimmungen zum Schutze des Hechtes, ihr Ursprung und ihre Auswirkungen

Irland galt einmal als schier unerschöpfliches Füllhorn, was die Hechtfischerei anbelangte. Leider sind diese Zeiten schon sehr weit in der Vergangenheit zu suchen, als quasi jeder Wurf einen Hecht brachte. Den Iren galt der Hecht nichts, für sie war nur das sogenannte Game-Fishing interessant. Also das Fischen auf Salmoniden. Daher griff man teilweise zu unglaublich brutalen Mitteln. Durch Netzzüge, Elektrofischerei und gelegentlich auch durch Gifte (z.B. Rotenon) wurden ganze Seen völlig fischleer gemacht, um sie mit Salmoniden zu besetzen.

Auch der aufkommende Hausboottourismus tat sein übriges. Hechte wurden von den Urlauber aus dem Shannon-Erne Waterway und den anliegenden Gewässern in unerhörtem Maße entnommen.

Bis dann Ende der 80er Jahre der Einbruch und das Umdenken kam. Die Touristen wurden unzufrieden, da jetzt die Hechte knapp wurden. Die Bestände der Weißfische explodierten im gleichen Maße, wie die Räuber weniger wurden. Ebenso erreichten sie nicht mehr die gewohnten Größen. Es drohte ein ökologisches und ökonomisches Desaster! Daher entschloß man sich, zum Glück, dem mit gesetzlichen Maßnahmen gegenzusteuern. Hier im folgenden der originale Text:

Pike Conservation

Conservation is vital to protect the quality of Ireland's pike fishing.


Anglers should use strong wire (20 - 30lbs test) for trace material, and a reel line of over 12lbs test, with small strong hooks in the terminal tackle. When fishing static baits, the tackle should be closely attended and a reliable form of bite detection used. A run should be struck sooner rather than later to ensure that the pike does not swallow the hooks.


When landed the fish should be laid flat and the hooks removed with a suitable tool such as long handled artery forceps. Anglers may find it useful to wear protective gloves. Sometimes it will be easier to release the hooks by working carefully through the gill covers. The use of pike or carp sacks is recommended for the retention of fish prior to weighing or photography before they are returned.

Pike Fishing Legislation

Pike angling is covered by legislation which stipulates:

1. It is illegal to fish with more than two rods.
2. It is illegal to transfer live roach between waters.
3. The use of live fish as bait is prohibited.

The 1990 pike conservation bye-law prohibits:

The taking and killing by any person of more than one pike on one day.
The taking or killing by any person of any pike exceeding 6.6lbs (3 kilos).
Any person having in his possession more than one dead whole pike or, alternatively, more than 3.3lbs (1.5 kilos) weight of pike flesh or parts.

The above mentioned prohibitions do not apply to specimen pike (as defined in the bye-law). A specimen pike from a river is over 20lbs (9 kilos) or from a lake 30lbs (14 kilos). This means that only one such specimen pike may taken and killed by any person on any one day and that only one such pike, in whole and ungutted form, may be in the possession of any person.

Besonders die Entnahme von Fischen ab 3 kg, deren Besitz und die bereits vorhandenen Fänge werden mittlerweile sehr streng und gründlich überwacht. Bei Verstößen auch sehr empfindlich geahndet. Unter den irischen und britischen Angler ist es eine Selbstverständlichkeit, sich und die Urlauber zu kontrollieren. Zudem ist es durch die wirklich mehr als zahlreichen Hinweisschilder, die für jeden Bootsfahrer ersichtlich sind, sehr deutlich erkennbar, daß der schonende Umgang mit der Resource Hecht freiwillig über die gesetzliche Forderung hinausgehen sollte.

Aus meiner eigenen Erfahrung kann ich sagen, daß dieses irische Modell mit seinen stringenten Entnahmemengen und -größen ein voller Erfolg ist und sich die Bestände der Hechte auch in den sehr stark frequentierten Bereichen des S-E-W signifikant verbessert haben. Selbst die sogenannten Specimen Exemplare, also Fische von mehr als 20lbs (Fluß) und 30lbs (See) sind wieder präsent. Obgleich sie legal, aber in der Menge beschränkt, entnommen werden dürfen, greift hier der Schutz des Hechtes aus besserer Einsicht. In gleichem Maße hat sich natürlich auch die Situation bei allen anderen Coarsefish verbessert, was besonders die britischen Matchangler sehr zu schätzen wissen.

Letztendlich hat sich der "act of pike conservation" als ein Segen für die irischen Fische und die irische Fremdenverkehrsbranche gezeigt! Ein Beispiel, dem der Kontinent in jedem Fall Folge leisten sollte.

Andreas Grunert

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