Fish Care

After our members, our fish are the clubs most important asset. in the past, fish handling was a low priority, and older members will remember tiny knotted mesh nets, huge bags of fish tipped onto the ground for photographing, and shots of clearly dead pike being held up by the eyes.

Thankfully those days are over, and we now realise the importance of managing fish properly, and how easily they can be damaged or even killed in the process of admiring them.

The purpose of these pages is to educate, not to ruin anybody’s fishing, and to help members understand the best way to handle fish. There will not be a huge amount of new rules, we already have sufficient dealing with damaging baits and rigs, probably only one, giving bailiffs and members the opportunity to enforce good fish care generally.

This section is a work in progress, and as promised at the AGM members will have a chance to contribute. If you would like to comment, please click HERE and send an e-mail.

Landing Fish

Fish should always be played as sympathetically as possible. Tackle should match the fish you expect to catch, and the surroundings in which you are fishing. There are already rules in place about ‘death rigs’ and the risk of tethering fish, and these should be complied with. DO NOT fish in a snaggy swim, it may be possible, in your opinion, to ‘hit and hold’, but aggressive playing of fish can result in damage such as ‘parrot mouths’ and abrasions from snags.

Do not play a fish for an exxcessively long time. It has been shown that exhaustion is the largest cause of fish death in angling. Accidental captures cannot be avoided, but balancing your tackle can reduce the time taken to land your catch without the need for bullying.

Once in the net, be extra careful, don’t drag the fish up the bank. Be aware of your surroundings, don’t bump the fish into surrounding bushes or trees. Do not stumble and fall over an unexpected tree root.

Always use an unhooking mat NEVER put a fish on the ground, even in a landing net, they can be crushed by their own weight.

Unhook the fish quickly, with minimum fuss. If you find this a problem, ask for help or advice. Its more important than learning to cast, or what the latest bait is.

If possible, leave the fish in the landing net during this process, so the fish can be quickly returned to the water with the minimum of handling.

Weighing should be done quickly, without hoisting the fish into the air and preferably in the landing net or unhooking mat, to avoid the opportunity to handle the fish too much or drop the fish during the transfer.

Photographing Fish

You’ve landed the fish, now you want to record the moment for your grandchildren!

The most important thing is: don’t take too long. All the time the fish is out of the water it is struggling for breath and drying out. You will have already unhooked the fish, weighed it and stared lovingly at it, so the clock is definitely ticking. It can do no harm at all to damp a fish down just before photographing. This will stop it flapping quite so much as well.

Be ready. Don’t leave the fish while you set up you’re tripod flashes etc. If you can’t take a photo quickly, then it may be best not to take it at all. Always have firm hold of the fish and support it properly. Inexperience generally leads to tentative holding, which can see the fish of a lifetime flapping around on the bank. Be positive.

Here are some DON’TS:

DO NOT keep the fish out of the water for an extended period.

DO NOT lift the fish more than a foot above the mat, if at all

DO NOT put the fish on the ground

DO NOT hold the fish against you, as this can cause abrasions and remove protective slime

DO NOT wear a watch or rings and allow them to come into contact with the fish.

Keep Nets & Sacks

Keep nets and sacks have been shown to have no detrimental effect on fish, but their inappropriate use most definately can. If you are going to use a keepnet, or a sack you must ensure that the well being of the fish is paramount. The club has rules, and the EA has bylaws about keepnet sizes and sacking fish, so make sure you are aware of them. Carry two keepnets.

Do not use a keepnet unless you are fishing for fish which are appropriate. Large fish such as carp tench bigger bream etc should not be kept in keepnets.

Always ensure that your keepnet is properly positioned, with enough water covering it, and that it is properly extended. If you can, stake the net out or use a net stretcher( click HERE for a quick easy guide).

Do not drop fish into a keepnet. If the bank is high, this can result in fish scraping down many feet of dry keepnet. If you can’t lower a fish in gently, use your landing net to ease the fish down the keepnet.

Do not keep too many fish in a keepnet. It is hard to be specific, and you must be guided by common sense and the bailiffs. 20 bream in any keepnet is FAR too many.

Do not mix large and small fish. This can cause undue stress and lead to crushing and abrasion when lifting the net. Use two keepnets if you are catching bream and roach, for example.

Do not keep fish in a net or sack for too long. For keepnets 5-6 hours is plenty, and take care in hot weather and look for signs of distress.

Take care when lifting your net, this is when most damage can occur. Try not to drag the net up by the top ring, pushing all the fish into a pile at the the bottom of the net. Work the fish along the net whilst still in the water, and lift them from the top 2 or 3 rings. This is easier than it sounds, especially if you attach a length of cord (washing line is ideal) to the bottom of the net. Pull the cord and the fish work their way up the net. The fish can then be easily rolled into the weigh net, or returned to the water without handling or scraping down the inside of the keepnet.

Returning Fish

Strange as it may sound, fish are best returned once they are actually IN the water. DO NOT EVER throw or drop fish back into the water. Large fish should be cradled until in the water, and, once ready to swim, should be gently released.

Bags of fish should be returned directly from the keepnet as described above, or, once weighed, returned from the weigh net once it is in the water. If the bank is high or awkward, place the fish in a landing net and lower them into the water.


We can all do more to look after our valuable fish stocks. Nobody wants to catch fish with broken mouths, scales missing and split fins. Nothing above should be a surprise, or a problem, for any angler.

Our bailiffs will be on the lookout for bad handling, as should all our members, advice will be available, so take it, it will benefit us all.