Spotted Sea Trout are relatively hardy fish, but anglers should still take great care when handling them.
Land your catch as quickly as possible. Leave the fish in the water and unhook it using pliers or a dehooking tool. The more quickly you release the fish, the better its chances of survival.
If the hook is too difficult to remove in one clean motion without ripping flesh, wet your hands before lifting the fish out of the water in order to keep its protective slime intact.
Be careful not to tear additional tissue when removing the hook. Back it through the original hole. If this fails, cut off the tip of the hook and try backing it out again. If the hook has been swallowed or is deeply embedded, cut the leader as close to the shank as possible and leave it in the fish. Most non-stainless steel hooks will dissolve in a few days.
But even if you do everything right, a trout may still die after it swims away. Biologists estimate that 8 percent of sea trout that have been caught and released do not survive, compared to 5 percent of redfish and 2 percent of snook.
This may not seem like many fish, but when multiplied by the pressure of millions of anglers, it could have a significant impact. That's why biologists are studying whether it would be better to raise bag limits so anglers harvest fewer fish.