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Pathways to Safe Angling
Pathways to Safe Angling

Can you imagine sitting in a boat on a calm day … hearing the lapping waves, birdsong, and wind through the trees …. And feeling the curious fish underneath you nibbling your fishing line? Fishing is a great way for people to get back to nature. And 51% of anglers say they fish so they can experience the sights and smells and be close to nature.  But to protect our natural resources, it is critical that anglers respect the environment where they fish. And one way you can show your respect and love for the environment is by keeping the fish you catch alive and healthy!

So here are some ways you can sustain your fish and make sure everyone in the future can be close with nature too:

  • Keep livewell clean and aerated. A livewell is a water tank that holds the fish you catch and dissolves oxygen into the water to increase your fishes’ survival. The first thing you should do is make sure it is clean. Vegetation or other things that are left in the tank can decompose and foul the water with toxins. This kills your fish … fast. You should also fill your livewell as soon as you put your boat in the water. Take in water from open areas that are not near vegation or with too much sediment. And if you put a fish in the tank … make sure to run the aerator. This helps keep oxygen in the water and allows the fish to breathe.
  • Use J-Hooks. These type of hooks are great for panfish like crappie. J Hooks will keep crappie pinned by the mouth and have long shanks that make it easier to remove from the mouth (and if the fish swallows it). Many anglers use needle nose pliers to take these hooks out.
  • Use light wire hooks. Light wire hooks are bendable, which is very handy if you snag it on a tree, brush, or stumps. Rather than leaving the wire in the trees or water where it could harm other organisms, you can easily free and salvage it. Light wire hooks are also great for fish that have soft mouths. They set the hook quickly and don’t tear up muscle tissues in the jaw.
  • Do not use bug spray or sunscreen. Before touching a fish, make sure that your hands are all clean! Bug spray and sunscreen will coat the gill plates that fish use to breathe … This means they cannot get oxygen and will suffocate. If you happen to have bugspray or sunscreen on your hands, put on gloves.
  • Hold fish by mouth. Catching a fish can be super exciting, but if you do not hold your catch properly, you can traumatize or injure the fish. This reduces their chances of surviving after being release. A secure way to hold your fish is by the mouth. This also makes sure that they cannot hurt themselves and that you are not smothering the fish by squeezing it! And before you admire your catch … also wet your hands. This ensures you do not take the protective slime off of the fish. Without this coating, they can vulnerable to infection.
  • Return them to water quickly. Remember … fish need water to breathe. So return the fish to water as soon as you can to prevent losses. If you are not sure which fish are for keeps and which should be released back into the water, check up on your fishing limits. These will tell you how long your fish should be, and maximum number you can keep. But a rule of thumb is to return the small fish. These are the babies and they need a chance to grow up and reproduce. Follow this rule and you will keep our fisheries healthy and strong.


When you look at these tips, there are bunches and bunches of ways you can care for your environment while fishing! Ahh … but when you think about it … it’s not only important that anglers take care of the fish, but that they take care of each other as well. So how can your family be safe on the water and have a successful fishing trip out in nature? Dive into the video to investigate the pathways to safe angling. And if you fish out the lesson activity below, your classroom will plan your own safe fishing trip.

For all kinds of other helpful information and resources on how kids can learn where-to and how-to go fishing, explore our companion KidsFishing.US website. To discover more about becoming a future angler, visit our educational partners that helped make this video, webpage and lesson possible by clicking on their logos below.

And if you decide to fish, you really need to get serious about being a safe angler. So take the complete online boating and water safety course using the link below.

Official Boater Safety Coursesand Boat Safety Education Materials

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