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A MESSAGE FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF GAME & FISH:
As COVID-19 continues to force all of us to make changes to our daily schedule, the department would like to remind you that together we can make a difference. To help minimize the spread of the virus:
- Practice social distancing.
- Wash your hands regularly.
- Avoid nonessential travel.
- Stay healthy and safe.
In this time of change, the department would like to encourage anglers to stay home, mend equipment and prepare for the coming fishing season. In the weekly fishing report, provided by Dustin Berg of Go Unlimited (supporting disabled anglers) and the Department of Game and Fish, we will be sharing tips and tricks to help you be ready to go on future adventures. Each week, we will feature some different flies, lures, activities or recipes that can be done at home:
Catch and Release Tips
Sometimes, we anglers simply want to catch fish and then release them back into the water to go about their fishy business. Here are a few simple ways we can increase the odds of fish survival after catch and release.
1. Crimp down the barbs of your hooks. With a pair of pliers, you can easily crimp the barbs of your hook, which enables a much easier and less invasive hook removal from the mouth of a fish. This technique causes less trauma to the fish by decreasing damage to the fish’s mouth and reducing the time it takes to get unhooked, causing less stress to the fish.
2. Use rubber nets. The outer layer of a fish’s body is covered in a layer of “slime.” This layer is a glycolprotein mucus that fish produce to help protect themselves against such invaders as fungi, bacteria and parasites. The old-school traditional knotted string and nylon nets remove a lot of slime, leaving fish vulnerable to invaders. Rubber nets remove much less slime and therefore greatly increase the odds of a fish surviving after release. Also, remember not to drag your catch across rocks, or the shoreline, as this can harm your fish faster than anything.
3. Limit time out of water and handle with wet hands. Naturally, fish don’t live long out of water, so releasing fish while in the water is best. If you take fish out of the water, remember that with each passing second, the fish becomes more stressed and its chance of survival decreases. Wet your hands before touching your catch. Take a quick picture and release your fish by holding it gently in the water facing into the current. Once the fish is oriented, it will swim away.
4. What to do if a fish swallows the hook. Often, when fishing with bait, the fish will swallow the bait and hook altogether. When a person pulls on the fishing line to remove the hook, they can cause massive damage to the fish’s entrails because the hook is lodged deep inside the fish. In this situation, it is best to simply cut the fishing line, leaving as little of it as possible protruding from the fish’s mouth. Fish have a tough stomach used to eat spiny creatures. They also have strong digestive enzymes that will eventually dissolve a hook. So, rest assured that leaving a hook inside a fish is something that they can overcome.
Catching and Eating
Many anglers enjoy a campfire fish dinner, buttery pan-seared fillets or an oven-baked fish dish. Catching, preparing and eating your fish can be a fun and nutritious endeavor. Here are a few tips to help you take your catch from water to table.
1. Keep your catch cold. Put your catch on ice or in cold water immediately after catching. Many anglers think that blood is the cause of a “fishy” taste. Actually, that taste can be caused by several things ranging from the type of fish to how it was handled after the catch. Keep your fish cold and cut under the gills to allow the blood to drain from the fish. This will help make the meat firmer and delicious.
2. Cleaning. After making a catch, it is important to take good care of your harvest to maintain the integrity of the meat. Remove anything that could contaminate the meat of the fish. Clean your fish by removing any dirt and grime. Remove any entrails and blood. Digestive enzymes found in the intestines will contaminate the meat, so it is important to remove entrails from the meat as soon as possible. You can field dress your fish by making a cut along the under belly of the fish enabling removal of the entrails. Another method is to fillet your fish. Whether your fish is field dressed or filleted, rinse it thoroughly with cold water.
3. From catching to cleaning to storage before eating — keep the fish as cold as possible. I bring a separate cooler filled with ice that is used solely to keep fish cold before and after cleaning for the ride home. It is good to designate a cooler for this purpose since it will get quite fishy — fishier than you would probably like your other food and beverages to get.
Remember to stay safe and practice social distancing. When restrictions are lifted, you can hopefully try some of the tips and tricks shared in this report.
If you have personal tips that you would like to share with your fellow anglers as we wait out the current restrictions, please email Dustin at email@example.com.
Social distancing is a challenge for all anglers; the itch to go fishing just keeps growing. But this is a time for all New Mexicans to pull together for the overall health of all our citizens and to stay home. The department reminds anglers it is their responsibility to be aware of closures and contact land managers for properties of interest when restrictions are lifted.
Bureau of Land Management (BLM) — www.blm.gov/new-mexico
U.S. Forest Service (USFS) — www.fs.usda.gov/about-agency/covid19-updates
New Mexico State Lands — www.nmstatelands.org/resources/recreational-access/
New Mexico State Parks — www.emnrd.state.nm.us/SPD/
New Mexico Open Gate Properties — www.wildlife.state.nm.us/hunting/maps/open-gate-program/
New Mexico Wildlife Management Areas — www.wildlife.state.nm.us/conservation/state-game-commission-lands/
Anglers and outdoor recreationists should consult their local government’s website for information regarding specific city and town fishing access.