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Fish are naturally protected against infection by their scales and mucous coating which covers the body. This external covering is constantly in contact with the surrounding water and is therefore an ideal place for the growth of micro-organisms, any physical damage to the exterior surface such as damage due to mishandling will reduce the integrity of the layer as protection and may allow infection and harmful products to enter the bloodstream.



National Angling Alliance


Endorsed by the Environment Agency

Correct method of handling Fish

Essential Equipment Carry and use:


  1. a knotless landing net, big enough for the intended species. 

  2. a disgorger and forceps.

  3. a quality unhooking mat suitable for large fish.

  4. a weigh sling or bag in good condition.

  5. anti-bacterial solutions suitable for fish.

  • Always use an unhooking mat spread on a soft flat surface, rather than on uneven  or hard bank side (e.g. gravel).Be aware that watch straps, lapel badges and jewellery could catch on, and damage a fish.

  • Minimise the time the fish is out of water, and handle it as little as possible. Covering the head of the fish with a wet cloth or piece of wet netting will help keep it calm and stop it flapping.

  • Note that deep-hooked fish should survive if the hook cannot be removed. Cut the line as far into the mouth as possible. Do not pull hard on the line and always release the fish immediately.

  • When releasing a fish, support it carefully in the water, facing upstream (if in a river), until it is ready to swim off naturally. Barbel and grayling may have a particularly long recovery time, and should be supported in the water or held in a landing net until fully recovered.

  • Respect all fish regardless of size or species.

  • Deep hooked perch should be treated with the same care as you would with eels. Hook lengths or traces should be cut as low down as possible and under no circumstances try to use a deep disgorger to remove deep hooks. In perch, the heart is very close to the back of the throat and it has been shown that fish are much more likely to survive if left to shed the hook naturally.

  • Sacks, slings, mats, nets and your own hands must all be wetted before use; note a mat left in the sun should be dipped in the water to cool it first. Transfer fish back to the water in a sling or enclosed mat, never carry them.

Taking photographs of your catch

Must also see previous section under Handling.

Select location for photography, position unhooking mat plus wet covering etc, and have camera ready loaded with sufficient film, before bringing the fish onto the bank.

When holding a fish, support it properly and keep it close to the ground, over an unhooking mat. Never stand, as dropping a fish could cause it severe damage.

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