Responsible Fishing

Returning fish to the water

It is important to return fish to the water as soon as possible. You should also try to return them to the area from which they were caught as this is their habitat and gives them the best chance of avoiding predators. For example, releasing a rock lobster over a sandy bottom will not provide it with anywhere to hide from predators while it recovers from the stress of being caught.

Handling fish

Fish survival will be greatly improved if you:
  • Minimise the time spent to land the fish. Long fights on light tackle are stressful for the fish and can cause greater damage;
  • Use barbless or circle hooks where possible to minimise hook damage to fish;
  • Release fish while still in the water or minimise the time it is out of the water;
  • Use fish-friendly landing nets with soft knot-free mesh to reduce harm to a fish's scales, eyes and fins;
  • Handle fish with wet hands or a wet cloth and don't place them on hot or rough surfaces - if you damage the protective slime covering the fish's scales you increase the chance of disease;
  • Support the weight of large fish under the belly and don't hold them by the jaw or gills; and
  • Return the fish to the water quickly and gently in the area it was caught. Hold the fish upright in the water and "swim" it gently left and right until it is ready to swim away.
Read more about responsible tuna fishing practices.

How to increase the survival of released flathead:

  Flathead Survival Pamphlet TAFI   (2Mb)

De-hooking fish

Dehooking a flatheadDehooking is the time when both the fish and the fisher are at most risk of damage. Rough handling can damage the fish or the fish's teeth, spines, or the hook could injure the fisher. If the fish is hooked by the mouth, tools such as de-hookers and pliers can make de-hooking the fish safer and easier.

If the fish has swallowed the hook, it has the best chance of survival if you simply cut the line and release the fish. Don't try to remove the hook as it will be expelled naturally from the fish or fish's stomach acids will eventually dissolve the hook.

Flathead have good survival rates if you use circle hooks to lip-hook them and prevent the fish swallowing the hook.

Read more about How to Use a Fish De-Hooker

  How to Use a Fish De-hooker   (191Kb)

Humanely dispatching the fish you retain

If you choose to keep a legal sized fish, you should dispatch (kill) it quickly.  Leaving a fish thrashing around to die slowly in a bucket of water or on the deck of a boat causes unnecessary stress to the fish, reduces the eating quality and storage life of the fish. A firm knock on the head or spiking of the brain (called 'iki jime') will kill fish immediately.

The Australian Animal Welfare Strategy funded a project to outline procedures for the humane killing of fish.  The web site describes the techniques for humanely dispatching of various species of fish, such as flathead, bream, mullet, whiting, Australian Salmon, snapper, morwong and tuna.

Gear selection

Fishing buoys and ropeUsing fish-friendly gear or tackle specific to the species that you are targeting can improve post catch survival and limit your chances of catching species that you do not want.
  • Choose equipment that enables you to land fish quickly.
  • Use larger hook sizes to stop small fish from swallowing the hook.
  • Try using artificial lures. Fish survive better as there is less chance of them being gut hooked.
  • Use barbless hooks or circle hooks - research proves that there is little change in your catch rates and you do less damage when unhooking.
  • If you are netting, try to target a particular fish and reduce your catch of unwanted species.
  • Pull nets frequently to give unwanted fish a better chance of survival.

Only take what you need for a feed

Fish Illustration by Peter Gouldthorpe The possession limits for fish species shouldn't be seen as a target to meet. Take only enough fish for immediate consumption so there are more fish left in the sea for another day. Fresh fish tastes much better than fish that have been frozen for extended periods.

Treat your catch well by immediately bleeding and putting it on ice. Fish left in a bucket of water in the sun will not be in the best eating condition when you get them home. Treat your catch like the precious resource it is. Learn how to fillet fish to get the most flesh off the frame and consider using fish frames in soups or stocks to get the maximum value from your catch.

Consider the environment and other fishers

Tasmania's beautiful coastline and fish are a resource to be shared by everyone. With one in three Tasmanians doing some fishing every year, together we can have a big impact. This is why we must all share not only the catch but also the responsibility for looking after our marine environment. Being considerate of the environment includes properly disposing of rubbish and fish waste, retrieving fishing gear wherever possible, and being a barrier to the spread of marine pests and diseases.

Fish illustration by Peter GouldthorpeIntroduced species and marine diseases have the capacity to cause massive damage to Tasmania's fisheries. Some pests and diseases can live for days in bilge water, fishing gear, diving gear, ropes, boat hulls and even in bait.
  • Don't move water, fish or fish products between locations including bait, shells and offal. Take all your catch home and dispose of waste and shells with the household rubbish.
  • Keep your fishing gear, dive gear and boat clean and disinfected. Thoroughly clean surfaces and remove organic matter that may harbour pests and diseases and dispose of waste in land based facilities.
  • Wash all gear, boats and trailers with fresh water and detergent, away from the coast and any drains, and let it dry.
  • Don't release aquarium or pond fish or plants into our waterways. This helps prevent the introduction of new pests and diseases.

Fletcher the Fish talks about responsible fishing

Fletcher's a talking fish

Hear what Fletcher the fish has to say about responsible fishing.

As Fletcher says, there are three simple things we can all do to make sure there are enough fish in our seas to enjoy for a long time.
  • Only Take What You Need For A Feed
  • Use Good Fish Handling Techniques
  • Be Considerate of the Environment and Others
The fish may be undersize, or you may release it because you are fishing for recreation or you may have caught more you need for a feed. Use responsible fishing practices to release the fish and give it the best chance of surviving so that it's there next time you go fishing.


Recreational Fishing Enquiries
Recreational Fisheries Section
1 Franklin Wharf
Hobart TAS 7001
Phone: 03 6165 3233, 1300 720 647

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