Protecting the Fish
The methods of landing a fish described in this chapter offer you various options for getting the fish to you without hurting it or you when you land it. It's important to play the fish correctly and land it unharmed if you plan on releasing it. A long battle builds up toxins in a fish's body so you should get it to you as quickly as possible.
Fish have a protective coating of slime on them that keeps them from getting infections on their bodies. You should land the fish in a way that wipes as little of this slime off its body as possible. You should never lay it down on the ground or in a boat because the contact will damage the slime layer. Also be careful how you hold the fish. Any place you touch the fish with your hand will remove some of the slime. The position you hold the fish can injure it, too, especially if you're posing for pictures. And the longer you keep it out of water the more likely it is to be injured, so you should get it back in the water as soon as possible.
Holding a bass by its lower jaw and twisting it so it's parallel to the ground is a common way to pose, but this can break the jaw or stretch the muscles of the fish's mouth so badly it won't be able to feed. You should never twist a fish, especially a big one, by its jaws.
When releasing the fish, ease it into the water and move it back and forth to run water across its gills until it's able to swim off. Don't throw the fish back into the water and make it hit hard on its side, because that can injure it, too. When fishing high above the water on a bridge or pier it's almost impossible to release a fish without injuring it.