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How to Teach Your Kids Proper Fish Handling

Updated: Jun 27, 2020

So you guys put in the countless hours required to find the right school of fish, the kids are on the verge of boredom because the process is taking too long. Snacks were consumed, patience was tested and finally you catch a glimpse of your target. A giant school of bonefish, stealth-fully moving down the flat. It looks like something out of a Yeti magazine. To your amazement, they are coming right for you. Your kid put a hail mary of a cast in front of the school of fish, the bonefish smell the dead shrimp on the knocker rig, one eats it, and you’re tight. Your kid is fighting the trophy of a lifetime. You see nothing but genuine happiness on their face and you are so set on getting this fish in their hands. You finally have the fish at the boat with no landing net, and you’re so excited you frantically grip this bonefish to death only to have it slide out of your hands like a banana coated in silicone. It’s like you transformed into Randy the Macho Man savage himself as this poor bonefish gets diving elbow dropped on the deck of your skiff. OOOHHH YEAAAHH BROTHHHERRR…how about oh no brother.

"It’s like you transformed into Randy the Macho Man savage himself as this poor bonefish gets diving elbow dropped on the deck of your skiff. OOOHHH YEAAAHH BROTHHHERRR…how about oh no brother."

Fish handling is one of the most important topics of 2020. While we practice it ourselves we must continue to promote and hold others accountable. I don’t mean like a public stoning or a battle of instagram posts. I mean a private professional message to the individual explaining what they could have done better and how stoked you are for them. Non-profit conservation efforts, such as CCA and Bonefish Tarpon Trust, have finally collected enough data to show that keeping certain fish out of the water for just 19 seconds leads to a higher mortality rate. Other findings have proved taking a fish out of the water that is over 40 inches may lead to life threatening injuries or death. Fighting a fish to exhaustion or in hypoxic waters leads to certain death, either by not being able to pump fresh oxygen over their gills or being preyed upon by sharks and other apex predators. Taking fish out of the water that are very slippery and handing them over to someone will inevitably lead to you or the other person dropping the fish on either rocks, the ground, or the deck of your boat. Imagine being picked up 6 ft off the ground having no way to brace your self and getting dropped on your head….not fun right. The worst part of all, is it's usually because you want a picture to post on instagram. While I fully support posting fish pictures, it needs to be done in an intelligent manor because we can all know what a fresh fish out of the water looks like. When your Miami spillway tarpon looks like it went through a meat grinder because you dragged it up on the rocks, you probably shouldn’t be posting that on social media. You’re basically promoting to others that it’s acceptable behavior and it’s not.

Here are some tips for promoting safe fish handling. Get your kids in the water with the fish whenever possible. I guarantee both the fish and the kid are a lot happier as long as your beside them. Know what type of bottom it is so your kid doesn’t sink up to your waist in mud and keep an eye out for the man in the grey suit. I would not recommend getting in if visibility is reduced or there is heavy current. No fish is worth the danger, so if that’s the case use a landing net. Rubber coated landing nets are awesome because they reduce the amount of slime that come off the fish and you always have positive control of your fish. An awesome tip is to always keep that net underneath that fish if it comes into the boat, we don’t want any fish bouncing off our nonskid only to go belly up later on. There is a fine balance between making fishing fun for kids while teaching them proper handling and making it a horrible experience. The whole goal here is to promote fishing and to get as many people involved so revenue continues to flow through the industry as well as state and government programs. If there isn’t anyone fishing, then no money is being generated or spent on the sport.

We all have messed up at one time in our fishing career, and that’s okay. You learn from it and implement the control measures to not do it again. Repeated offenses however, will not be tolerated in my fisheries, so police each other up and teach adults and kids what right looks like.

Stay Hooked Fam.

Scott Brown

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