Landing by Hand
Landing a fish by hand is quick and works well with some kinds of fish. But it can be dangerous to you if the fish has parts of its body that can hurt you. Learn which fish can be safely landed by hand and then decide if it's appropriate for the way you're fishing.
Good Points about Landing by Hand
Landing a fish by hand is the quickest way to get it out of the water, and you have more control over it than when it's flopping around in a net or on a gaff. Some species of fish, like bass, bream, walleye, pike, and flounder, lend themselves to landing by hand. Bass have a nice big lip to grab; small bream can be grabbed by their bodies and bigger ones by the mouth; walleye and pike have teeth, but you can put a finger in their gills to pick them up and hold them; and flounder can be pinched on either side of the gills (but don't stick your finger in their mouths).
Releasing a fish after landing it by hand is quick and easy, and requires a minimum of handling. Since the fish is already in your hand, you can put it back in the water and revive it easily by moving it back and forth.
Bad Points about Landing by Hand
Some fish are impossible to land by hand. Big saltwater fish like swordfish and sharks can't be landed by hand because they're too big to handle. It's common in salt water to release many kinds of fish like tarpon without ever actually landing them because of the danger to you and the fish. They're considered caught when the fisherman or the mate on the boat touches the leader.
Big-game fish that are brought into the boat too soon or that jump while being landed can severely injure and even kill anglers. Learn how to handle big-game fish from experts and let the crew handle them if you go out on a charter.
It's easy to injure a fish by holding it wrong. Not only can you break its jaw, you can damage gills and eyes by pinching the fish there. What's more, when a struggling fish moves in your hand as you try to land it, you can easily clamp down too hard on it and damage it that way.
Bending over to hand-land a fish is very awkward on the shore and on a boat. You can lose your balance and possibly hurt your back; or the fish can move wrong and jam a hook into you. Many anglers have hooks stuck into their hands, arms, and legs while landing fish.