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Jonathan Roldan – BAJA BEAT

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Thursday, August 15, 2019
A man’s junk


C.P.R. for FISH
We had several pangas slow trolling the shallow, turquoise waters off Punta Arenas. White sands met the Sea of Cortez in colors worthy of any travel brochure.

We are in roosterfish land.


The big kings of the beach in this area can range from 40 to over 100 pounds. We had already landed and released two 60-pound fish and were hoping for at least one more.


Two other guys in the panga 50 yards away suddenly started whooping. They had a double strike and the boat was in pandemonium mode.


Both guys were on bent rods already moving and dancing around the stern of the panga trying to keep the lines tight and untangled. The captain was alternately steering the boat, coaching the anglers and trying to keep the deck cleared.


The big fish were tearing up the waters behind the boat. We could hear the reels singing.


We needed to change our own baits so we stopped our panga and all of us watched the crazy activity in the other panga. It made for some fun video – time for a cold beer anyway.


In about 15 minutes, both fish were simultaneously brought to the boat. Everyone was high fiving and whooping it up. As they should! Judging just by the dorsal fins of the submerged fish, they were legit 50- to 70-pound roosters.


This was confirmed as both fish were lifted into the panga.


One fish, was unceremoniously plopped on the deck. The other was dropped by the tired angler. I could see the anglers and skipper jump as the fish thrashed.


Then, of course, congratulatory photos.


This pose. That pose. Double pose. Hold them this way. Hold them that way. Snap! Snap! Snap! Your camera. My camera. Now with the captain. You know how it goes.


Then, of course holding the fish up so we could see! Of course, we gave them some sportsmanlike applause and thumbs ups.


Photos done, I could see everyone bending over and trying to unhook the fish. It looked problematic but ultimately, it was clear that hooks and lines were unhitched.


Then, both fish were lifted and heaved up and over the side in cannonball splats! More high-fives, knuckle taps and fist bumping.


Good for them.


But, as we pulled away to start trolling again, I had to cringe about how the fish were handled. No doubt, I’m glad the fish were released and the other anglers were well-intentioned.


I could only hope the fish survived.


There’s a right and a wrong way to C.P.R. a fish (Catch-Photo-Release).


For one, time is of the essence. Actually, it’s the most important thing.


A fighting fish builds up lactic acid in their muscles just like any human who exercises strenuously. The longer the fight, the more lactic acid builds up. In fish, this can be lethal.


Once the fight is over, if you can get your photos and the release without taking the fish out of the water, all the better. Once you pull the fish out of the water, a bunch of things happen.


In the water, fish have neutral buoyancy. When you take them out, gravity takes over and internal organs can be severely damaged.


This is especially true if you hold the fish (as we have all done), with the head up and tail down. It’s just not a natural position for the fish and all it’s innards.


Also, dropping the fish on the deck is a knucklehead move.


Fish need water to breathe.


So, for obvious reasons, once the fish is out of the water, it’s suffocating. It’s just been fighting for its life and now it can’t breathe because you're have a 10-minute photo session.


Imagine running several hundred-yard dashes as if an army of zombies was after you. At the end of 10 minutes… 15 minutes… an hour of running full-speed, someone pinches off your nose and mouth so you can’t breathe!


A couple of other pointers.


As mentioned, holding a fish vertically isn’t doing the fish much good. How you hold it can further exacerbate the damage.


Holding it by the gill and probably damaging its breathing apparatus is a fail. So is sticking your fingers in it’s eyeball sockets! OUCH.


The fish also have a very important slime covering their bodies.


The more you touch it, the more that slime rubs off. That coating is important in warding off infections. Another reason why dropping it on the deck to wiggle and squirm is a really bad move.


Removing the hooks properly is essential as well.


For your own protection, as well as the fish, use long-nose pliers. If all else fails, it might be better to just cut the line as close to the hook as you can rather than further injure the fish.


Better to get it back into the water faster.


Undoubtedly, there’s some controversy on this topic.


Some say that the hook will eventually cause an infection that kills the fish. Others say that the hook will eventually rust out. For that reason, some anglers use bronze hooks instead of stainless steel whenever they can.


People with bigger brains than mine might someday figure that one out. Personally, I would just like to get the fish in the water and on its way ASAP.


Finally, for the actual release, be gentle.


Tossing it into the air like a pizza to come down in a big splat doesn’t cut it in any circumstances.


If you can, gently get the fish moving back-and-forth in the water. This helps re-oxygenate its gills. For a big fish, slowly moving the boat forward while carefully holding the fish helps accelerate getting the fish back to normal and reviving it, and the fish swimming off no worse for wear to fight another day.


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