Until recently, offshore anglers were required to carry venting tools when fishing for reef fish in the Gulf of Mexico. This requirement was removed by federal and state regulators last year and starting later this month anglers will be able to choose the best method to maximize the survival of fish brought up from great depths.
But while experts discuss the benefits of various methods, one thing is for sure whether fishing inshore or offshore - a dehooking device increases a fish's chance of survival, regardless of species.
Any tool designed to remove a hook embedded in a fish will pass as a "dehooking device." Acceptable "tools" include blunt-nosed pliers, alligator pliers and dehooking forceps. Don't use knives, screwdrivers or sharp-nosed wire cutters. While pliers and forceps can be used, a dehooking device that grabs the fishing line, slides down and gets the hook out quickly is preferred because it minimizes damage to the fish.
If the fish has swallowed the hook, it is sometimes better to cut the line as close to the hook as possible. A non-stainless steel hook rusts out in a few days. The Florida Sea Grant web site is an excellent source of information and the subject and catch-and-release fishing in general. Go to www.flseagrant.org.