Hooked on fishing? Here's how to do it responsibly this holiday season
Do fish feel pain? What are the best hooks to use? Which fish can I keep and which ones should I release?
As thousands of holidaymakers head to the coast or inland resorts for their annual holidays, researchers and conservation groups have published a new online guide to help recreational anglers make wiser choices before dipping their hooks into the water.
The 20-page guide, The Responsible Angler, sets out to answer some of these questions for the country's estimated million-plus recreational anglers.
“Recreational angling is fun and often passed down through the generations, but for us and our children’s children to continue to enjoy this pastime, we need to learn and teach the basics to ensure that recreational fishing is sustainable,” said the South African branch of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) this week.
The new guide covers a wide range of topics, from catch limits and permits to humane catch-and-release methods and how anglers can contribute as citizen scientists by recording and sharing their catch information.
It emphasises the importance of the humane treatment of fish, including those that have been badly hooked.
Research suggests that over 70% of dusky kob die from internal injuries and stress when anglers try to remove hooks that have been swallowed into the gut, whereas nearly 85% survive if they were only hooked through the mouth.
“If a fish is hooked in the gills or throat, or if the hook is swallowed, cut the line as closely as possible to the hook and release the fish as normal,” advises the guide.
To minimise stress for released fish, the guide provides information on how to handle them. It recommends that they should not be out of water for longer than 30 seconds.
Anglers are encouraged not to keep any species that are considered endangered, vulnerable or threatened. The guide lists several websites offering further information on particular species.
If you have a licence and choose to keep some of the fish you catch, the guide recommends that the most humane way to kill a fish is to knock it unconscious with a blow to the head and then cut through the base of the gills so that it can bleed out.
The guide has been published by WWF SA in partnership with the SA Shark Conservancy, the Oceanographic Research Institute, the SA Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity and Rhodes University.