The West Palm Beach Fishing Club, one of the nation’s oldest and most respected organizations of its kind, offers anglers a way to help ensure that big fish that are weighed and released survive to make another angler’s day, and to breed again.
It’s called the “Snook Sling.” Made from a tough blue material called Textilene, they are designed for saltwater use. The slings weigh exactly 1 pound, so it’s easy to deduct the weight of a Snook Sling from the fish’s weight. The fishing club sells Snook Slings for $45.
Though the sling will of course work as a release tool for any species, while protecting anglers from the fish’s sharper parts, the venerable snook offers a good example of why such tools and care are important. Snook, as with many of Florida’s most popular fish species are managed with a “slot limit.” That means you can keep a fish that is within a certain size range, but have to throw the larger and smaller fish back.
But tournaments aren’t usually based upon who catches the biggest fish in the slot—although that has been done with redfish tournies. And of course, we like to weigh our catches and get pictures of our trophy fish before we release them. Whether the fish survives what a buddy of mine calls “the alien abduction” experience depends largely upon how it’s handled. Or how little it’s handled, I should say. So here’s how to properly weigh, photograph and release a trophy fish.
Say this summer or early fall you catch a big snook, probably from one of the state’s inlets or passes. That’s where most of the big girls go to spawn and it is spawning season. The fish is clearly over the slot limit, which on the Gulf Coast is between 28 and 33 inches, and on the Atlantic coast 28 to 32 inches. Pull the fish into the sling by the leader, put the handles on the scale hooks, and lift. Note the weight quickly, and have the camera out and ready for a picture. Remember, those fish are basically holding their breath and feeling much more gravity then they’ve ever felt suspended in the water column.
Next, set the bag back into the water so the fish can breathe again. Wet your hands so you remove a minimum of protective slime from the fish. Remove the hook or hooks with a de-hooking tool, then revive the fish by pointing its nose into the current and moving the fish forward and backward gently until the fish kicks out of your hand.
Hanging any fish by its jaws can cause permanent injury or death. But this new tool helps anglers keep Florida on top as the Fishing Capital of the World. Send us your pics!