PRACTICING CATCH AND RELEASE
The large trophy fish that we pursue with devotion can take many years to attain such sizes. A 40+ pound fish can be in excess of 30 years of age so for many, the fish can actually be older than the Angler pursuing it!
These great fish can live in excess of 60 years and, though traditionally known as a hardy fish, we advocate to always treat them with care and respect.
It’s also worth remembering that these large fish spend their entire life submerged with their bodies and vital organs supported by the surrounding water pressure. When they are on the bank and being handled by us, this support is no longer there and they are susceptible to damage if not handled correctly.
The preservation of these ‘elder statesmen’ for other anglers to enjoy is something that we advocate, therefore we have dedicated a section of our web-site specifically to carp care so that when the fish of a lifetime is captured, it can be released and unharmed for others to enjoy.
After all they give us so much pleasure in their pursuit, it’s the least we can do?
Modern day carp nets have been designed with both efficiency and fish safety in mind. The small mesh that is used today will not lift the fish’s scales or cause any tearing of the fins, as the older thickly knotted nets will.
If you do not have a purpose built carp net then a rubber net is the next best option.
The modern carp nets are designed for large fish in excess of 20+ pounds. They are NOT designed however to actually ‘lift’ fish of this size out of the water while holding the net handle, in the traditional method.
They usually have a 6ft detachable handle with the width of the actual net being 42”-52” inches.
The actual net is attached to the handle via a spreader block, with the net itself consisting of two detachable arms that fit into the spreader block, and a tension cord.
NETTING THE FISH
The netting of a large carp is best done in the following manner:
During the fight, place the net in the water and submerge it, leaving the handle in a convenient place to grab when needed. Once the fish has been played and is ready to be banked, do not chase the fish around the swim with the net but instead, gently bring the fish towards the net and gently draw it over the submerged net. You will know when the fish is ready to net as it will turn on its side on the surface.
For further explanation of the above statement; do not attempt to scoop the fish as you might a large bass as this will likely result in a lost fish at the net. This traditional scooping motion will scare a large fish and have it bolt for freedom, likely either pulling the hook or possibly having the leader/hook length become tangled in the net.
Place the net in the water and "play" the fish (Photo #1) in and over the net, then carefully and gently lift the net just enough to ensure the fish can't swim or bolt from the net (Photo #2). Once the fish is safely in the net draw it towards the bank. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO LIFT THE NET !
It is recommended to either completely loosen your spool or engage your free running facility on your reel at this time. This will avoid unnecessary tension to the hook whilst the fish is on the bank.
Place the rod safely to one side and ensure that you have sufficient line drawn from the reel.
Specifically designed carp nets will allow you at this point to completely ‘collapse’ the net and remove the arms from the spreader block. This now leaves you free of the net handle. The netting can at this time be ‘rolled up' around the disconnected net arms (make sure that the line is to one side in the net and doesn’t roll with the netting) allowing you to carry the fish safely to the unhooking mat (Photo #3).
If the net you are using does not allow for the arms to be removed, gently gather up the netting around the fish and pick up the weight of the fish by the gathered netting.This will stop all of the tension and weight of the fish being placed on the weakest area of the net (the net arms where they enter the spreader block) and thus, avoiding an expensive net breakage.
When holding the fish for the camera(s), (photo #4) do so low to the ground and over your soft, protective un-hooking mat.
Either unhook the carp on soft grass or better still use an un-hooking mat. Even soft grass will not stop a carp from harming itself if it decides to flap around on the bank.
Once you have unhooked the fish place the terminal rig away from the net, this way if the fish struggles the hook will not be transferred either to the mesh of the net… or to you!
Unhooking mats are cheap items and will ensure that the fish does not damage itself whilst on the bank. They come in various sizes, some can also be used as a weigh sling serving a dual purpose. They are usually filled with foam or polystyrene beads for cushioning. Make sure that you wet down the mat prior to laying the fish on it and keep both the fish and mat wet at all times, especially during hot weather.
Weigh slings generally come in two forms… either in a very fine mesh type material, the same as a carp sack, or a heavier plastic coated type material as shown in the picture. They both perform the same function of safely enabling you to weigh a trophy carp.
Again it cannot be emphasized enough that these very large fish should not be weighed without a sling, i.e. through the gills or by any other methods.
Wet the sling down and zero your scales with the slings weight (this is best done prior to you actually banking a fish). It is an idea to then place the sling on top of your unhooking mat or on the soft grass thus enabling you to weigh the fish after un-hooking with efficiency.
When you catch a trophy carp place it carefully in the sling and then weigh. If you do not have a sling you can weigh the fish in the net but this is not very accurate and can also cause more damage to your net than necessary. Weigh slings are cheap items of tackle and will last a long time if treated well.
Carp sacks were actually developed originally from early hessian ‘sack’ material. This was porous and enabled a fish to be kept in the water for periods of time for weighing or photography. Modern day carp sacks are still made of very porous material and have been developed to cause the least amount of stress to the fish.
They are very soft, have no sharp edges, have an opening at the top to enable you to easily place the carp into the sack and then securely close it with a fitted zipper. There is also a very strong chord attached to the sack to enable you to very securely tether it to the bank so a potential disaster doesn't happen where the carp actually swims away from you inside the sack!
Some have enlarged mesh openings, one at each end of the sack, to allow the fish to breath efficiently while it is captive. Even so, PLEASE be mindful of where you sack your fish to ensure that the Oxygen level of the water is sufficient for your prized, trophy Carp!
When Should I Use A Sack?
Care must be taken when placing these large fish in a carp sack for any length of time. As a general rule it is much better not to sack a fish, not only for the sake of the fish, but because it will give the fish time to recuperate prematurely, with the end result being that it will be much harder to control for the photograph.
If you must sack a fish for photography purposes make sure that the sack is wet before you place the fish in it and that it is placed in some sufficiently deep water. During the summer months the shallows can be devoid of any significant oxygen content and a sacked fish during the summer in shallow water is a recipe for disaster.
Additionally make sure that the sack is tethered to a strong point. Once the fish has recuperated it may try to swim off in the sack, though the black material that the sack is made of usually calms the fish down. Still it’s better to be safe. The rule of thumb is not to sack a carp unless it’s an absolute necessity such as in a competition or a night caught trophy fish for photography, but if you have to please make sure that sufficient care is taken.
Remember that the fish will be very lively if it has had some time to recuperate… so extra care should be taken when preparing for photographs of a fish that has been sacked for a period of time.
Holding The Fish & Releasing
We advise not to support the fish by the gills or the mouth area, as you might a bass on any occasion as it will cause severe damage to the fish.
Remember to keep both the fish and mat wet at all times, especially during hot weather. To hold the fish for a trophy shot place one hand under it's head, just behind the gills with fingers either side of the Pectoral fin and the other hand supporting around the the anal fin. Pay particular attention and care not to let your fingers enter the fish's gill area as very real and serious injury to the fish can occur if the gills are damaged.
Gently roll the fish towards you until you are able to balance it evenly. This should all be done over the unhooking mat or soft grassy area.
If the fish struggles you do not want any sharp objects close to the fish.
Keep the center of gravity of the fish low, especially to start until the fish is calm and relaxed. Keep the fish close to the ground, over the un-hooking mat by crouching or kneeling on the ground and rest your elbows on your knees for support.
If the fish starts to struggle, simply invert it by rolling the fish back on its flank and holding it close to your chest. This will stop it from struggling. Once you have taken a number of photos from different angles, place the fish back onto the wet mat and "doctor" the fish with one of the commonly available antiseptic liquids available for the job. It's the least we can do to make sure the fish goes back home in as perfect condition as is possible. Applying the antiseptic liquid to the hook hold mark and any other damage on the fish can help prevent infection.
Then return the fish for someone else to enjoy! Do this by transporting the fish to the waterside inside a zippered weigh sling or un-hooking mat, making sure the carp can't slip out of the sling or mat while carrying it to the waters edge. It is worth watching the fish as it is released for a number of reasons:
1. If the fish has not fully recuperated you will need to stabilize the fish so that the water can be seen to be flowing through its gills and it is able to fully support its own weight in the water (It is not floating on its side). A Large fish after a long fight will be exhausted and so it may take some time for it to be strong enough to swim away on its own. Releasing the fish prematurely can harm the fish. Supporting the fish upright in the water will allow it to regain strength whilst breathing. You may want to hold the wrist of the tail with one hand and give support underneath the head with your other hand whilst slowly moving the fish back and forth. This will promote the movement of water into the mouth and gills. You will know when the fish is ready to be released as it will struggle to swim away.
2. Watching the fish slowly swim away after a tense battle is one of the most satisfying parts of the Carp Fishing experience.
Antiseptic Liquid For Carp
Here are some examples of some antiseptic liquids that are specifically designed and manufactured for the purpose of treating hook hold marks and scale damage on carp before releasing them back home to their lake/river.