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Trying to make low-stress fishing apparatus. Advice?

1183 Views 21 Replies 13 Participants Last post by  Betta132
I'm trying to catch sunfish and perch at a local river, however it's just so I can find out what species we have. I don't want to keep anything, and I want to make it as humane as possible.
I ordered some barbless hooks online. I'm hoping those will be fairly easy to remove and cause less damage to the fish.
I also plan to take a bucket. I'll fill it with water and immediately transfer any fish I catch into it, then I'll unhook them in there so they aren't out of water for more than half a second or so. I'll ID them and then immediately let them go.
I've seen some fish hooked through the gill or eye... How can I help prevent that?
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Barbless hooks sound good in theory, but they arent very efficient on fish like perch that thrash around a lot when hooked. To have success you need to be fishing very shallow, and be prepared to snatch the fish out of the water as soon as it bites - which brings it own set of risks to the table, like flopping off in mid air and hitting the ground before you can get a handle on it.

Imo you're better off using a barbed hook that will securely hold the fish until you can land it safely. More often than not, damage to the fish occurs by careless removal of the hook. This can be minimized by using a little attention and finesse - and needle nosed pliers instead of your fingers!

As for not hooking the fish through the gill or eye, it's going to happen sometimes and there's nothing you can do about it. But in my experience it's best to not have a hook that is too big or too small. Very small hooks tend to be harder to remove without further damage. Too large a hook is more likely to penetrate an area that you dont want, due to the large radius.

As for unhooking in a bucket of water, it's more important to secure the fish well rather than worrying about it being out of the water. If the fish is big enough, hold it by the bottom lip and use pliers to gently work the hook out. If the fish is too small to hold by the mouth, make sure to wet your hand before holding the fishes body. This will minimize any slime coat damage. Being out of the water long enough to do that wont hurt the fish at all. It will be far less risk than having the fish loose in a bucket where it can thrash around.
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I have been fishing for years. Use your hand to remove the hook and not pliers for perches and sunfish. The saddest thing to happen to a fish is if they swallow the hook into their throat. If you fear any of this then I advise you to not fish. The percentage is 1/100 to get hooked in the eye or throat.
Personally I can be much more precise and delicate using pliers, the smaller the fish the more it helps. This also is from years of fishing. :)
Most humane way would probably be a fish trap. But that could take some time to catch anything. A quick way, after some practice, to catch plenty of fish in shallow waters is a cast net. Both of these methods use no hooks and have a low stress impact.
I fly fish and use barbless hooks all the time. That is the way to go. And you did not ask, but you will need a fishing license. Forceps work better than pliers, better control. Lures would increase you chance of hook set in the lip which is what you will want. Live bait may get swallowed and results in a deeper hook set.

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Do you want to find what species are in the area -- or to directly identify the species in a given spot on the river?

I ask because, rather than going out to catch the fish yourself, perhaps you could get the information you seek from you could contact the local fish/wildlife office, or environmental/community groups with an interest in the river, or a local university? You might even find a group that needs help investgating/counting species in the river. :)
They live in water that's about up to my eyes... So slightly under 5 feet deep in the shallow parts. Too deep for a net.
I know these guys don't thrash if you hook them... I've seen them caught when people are fishing. They just race away, and if that doesn't work, they dash backwards and forwards.
Wouldn't a barbless hook be better for a foulhooked fish because it would just slide out instead of causing more damage? I one saw someone foulhook a big green sunny in the eye... When he tried to get the hook out, the whole eye came with it. Poor fish.

What sort of lure is good for assorted smallish predator fish like sunnies? Something rubber that looks like a grub?

As per the bucket thing, I'm not going to try to unhook something that's loose and racing around. I've removed them from hooks before, when this family had several kids fishing at once and their dad was busy with one fish at a time. They're all small enough to hold in one hand, so I held them in the water and just moved the hook out.
Why would pliers be better for getting a hook out? Wouldn't they make it harder to feel what you were doing?

I'm trying to directly identify some things in one spot, but I want to be able to do it whenever I want. I'm keeping track of the river, and also I'm checking for tilapia. I found a dead tilapia near there once.
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A cast net is worth a try, you'll get everything with minimal damage, not just sunnies and perches. Also use a small hook with a live earthwork. This allows for a more precise hook up with the fish. Most foul hooks are from a fish attacking a lure and missing or the fisherman setting the hook into the face or body on accident due to quick movements of the fish. Live bait allows them to swallow it and hopefully get the hook in the mouth. Hate to break it to you, but anytime you cast a hook in the water you should expect the worst. Fish long enough and you'll find yourself sitting on a river bank with a bleeding dying fish in your hands struggling with a deeply lodged hook. It comes with the territory, nothing about fishing is humane. If you just want to find out whats in there contact a university or local group like the person above said. If you fish, you might not like what happens.
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Why would pliers be better for getting a hook out? Wouldn't they make it harder to feel what you were doing?
You do it by sight, not by feel. Pliers give you a secure, tight grip on the shaft of the hook, and allow you to move it precisely in the direction your eyes tell you it needs to go. It probably wont matter much if you're using barbless hooks, otherwise it certainly wont hurt to have a pair with you. Try it both ways you'll see what Im talking about.
another option is circle hooks, though they may not make them small enough, their shape helps prevent foul hooking and every time I use them the hook is in the corner of the lip or the fish swallowed it but wasn't hooked. just remember that if a fish swallows a hook and gets foul hooked to cut the line, the chance of it surviving is much higher than if you sit there tugging its guts out.
When I used to fish for bluegills, I used salmon egg hooks with the barb mashed down with small piece of nightcrawler. The ones I caught ranged from 1.5-8 inches. Never foul hooked one but had some that swallowed the hook.

I think the easiest way to catch them is to use a cane pole with a small bobber. At first sign of bite gently raise the pole and swing the fish to you. But then I grew up using them so might just seem easier to me. Plus way back then FL didn't require a fishing license when using cane poles so was cheaper to fish with them. Lol

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Small Long shanked hook's (prevent's swallowing), and bait with meal worm's,red worm's,or corn.
Catch em all the time for use as bait for flathead catfish.
Can seine them also.
Be careful with cast nets, in most places it is illegal to use a cast net to catch fish that are not bait fish.

basically all of the fish in texas have been documented and identified scientifically, Texas parks and wildlife has a lot information out there about what kinds of fish are in specific areas.

but if you are set on examining them yourself and you don't want to risk harming one on your own, try talking to the fisherman out there, and ask them if you can examine the perch or sunfish when they bring them in. usually we love to show off things that we catch.
I'll look into those other hooks, thanks.
I want to keep an eye on things in the area, and I gotta admit I'm curious... I don't get close looks at those fellows most of the time.

I'd ask people, but almost everyone does catch-and-release and stuff is back in the water. Plus, I get secretly angry when I see a bunch of fish that are just gonna be kept in a bucket and then skewered for bait.

And yeah, I know not to tug on a fish who's swallowed the hook. It's common sense.
EDIT: Okay, I Googled 'circle hook'. I think I'm gonna just bend a small barbless hook into that shape...
Seine is going to be the most humane option by far... but you'd need a 2nd person with water that deep.

I'm an avid cast netter. But that would definitely NOT be a good choice- the vast majority of fish get gilled in cast nets, and very few fish survive the stress past a day (I know, I used to make little retention ponds and tried very hard to keep my new "pets" alive when I was a kid LOL)

Needle-nose pliers are very helpful for getting good angles on hooks to pull them out when fish mouths are too small or too toothy for your fingers. Don't forget a good soft rag, too- to help protect the fish's slime coat while giving you a good grip on them.
A seine net isn't an option at the moment, unfortunately. That would be neat to try, though... Wonder what I could get doing that. I bet there's catfish.
Do those sorts of nets work if the water has random boulders all over the bottom?

Ooh, I hadn't thought of the rag. That would help.
I don't think I'll have to worry about teeth, but I'll bring some needle-nose pliers just in case.

Circular, barbless hooks
Soft clean rag for gripping
Land quickly
Needle-nose pliers
Remove hook quickly
Any other tips?
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Are you wanting to take photos of them? If so- a small aquarium (or better yet- very narrow DIY glass box so narrow a fish can't turn and so has to hold relatively still) is pretty useful.
Why not just trap the fish. Suter you'll get small ones but you won't hurt them. I used to cut the top off of a 2 liter coke bottle, invert it and bam you get a quick small fish trap.

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I would think using a rag as suggested would remove far more of the protective slime coat than a bare hand. Most catch and release fisherman know to just get your hand wet before grabbing the fish and limit the amount of handling as much as possible.

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