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Responsible angler techniques for saltwater fishing

Learn saltwater fishing techniques to avoid accidentally hurting or killing fish.

Most of the time, we only think about the fish we bring home from our fishing trips. But doing the wrong thing when you catch, handle, and release a fish can cause unintentional injuries or even death. A little knowledge goes a long way in protecting our resources. Below are some ways to be a responsible angler and reduce the number of unintentionally harmed and killed fish.

Practice proper handling

  • Fish are covered in a later of mucus, which helps protect them. It's important to main this mucous layer by
    • Using a dehooker to release the fish. 
    • Keeping the fish in the water so it can breathe and maintain its mucous layer.
    • If you have to remove a fish from the water, wet your hands or use a wet rag to protect the mucus.
  • Never hold a fish by the eyes or gills. Hold it under the belly and the caudal peduncle (where the body meets the tail or caudal fin) for more support.

Additional Resources

Practicing proper release

  • If fishing with a j-hook, pay attention and set the hook immediately. 
  • If the hook is swallowed, never forcefully remove it. Cut the line as close to the mouth as possible and then release.
  • Return fish head-first to get it breathing as it enters the water

Understand limiting your bag vs. bagging your limit

  • Eat or release. There is no reason to keep any fish you're not going to eat. Pictures and fiberglass trophies look better and last longer than a stuffed fish. 
  • Catching the bag limit every time you fish is wasteful, even if you plan to freeze it. Freezer-burned fish does not table well.
  • If a fish has no limit, it doesn’t mean you should catch as many as you can. Some species with no limit may not taste good. 

Circle Hooks

Circle hooks brochure

Don't hurt the ecosystem

  • You may think marine flora, like eelgrass, are a nuisance, but the fish you like love them and need this habitat. Leave them alone.  
  • Fishing line should never be thrown into the water or the trash.
  • Don’t throw anything in the water. Properly discard unused bait, tackle, or any other trash.

Additional Resources

Contact   for Responsible angler techniques for saltwater fishing


DMF Staff Directory View 


(617) 727-3337


Gloucester Field Office
30 Emerson Avenue, Gloucester, MA 01930

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