The Tampa Bay Times

A recent warming trend had been a boost to shallow water fly fishing. Since most inshore species are in schools, many fish can be caught in a short period of time. Even if a few fish are going to be kept, having the ability to safely and quickly release a fish to catch another requires careful technique. I often see serious fishermen who want to preserve their sport for the future do the wrong things. Handling the fish with a dry towel, holding large fish vertically, and keeping them out of the water too long will prevent their survival. Most flies have a single hook that can be crimped or debarbed before starting to fish. This means it will penetrate the fish’s mouth easier and simplify removal from your quarry or your person. Do barbless hooks make it easier to loose fish? If constant tension is applied, no. Get the fish in quickly, especially in warmer water. When close to the boat or you, grab the leader close to the fish, and with your other hand engage the hook bend with a simple wire hook disgorger sold in all tackle shops, similar to the ones used to remove live baitfish from a Sabiki rig. Lift vertically with the disgorger while holding the leader below the fish’s mouth and the hook point will disengage allowing it to slip back into the water. All this without handling the fish. Check the fly and leader for damage and continue fishing.

Fly fisherman and casting instructor Pat Damico charters in lower Tampa Bay and can be reached at and (727) 504-8649.

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