We got a lot of reactions to a post about Steve holding a Mutton by the eyes to bring it aboard the boat. Many people were wondering why you grab it by the eyes, here’s why:
Each fish has different ways that they can be held safely. There are very few fish that we catch that do not have dangerous parts. Teeth, sharp fins, bills or gill rakers can all cause damage to your hands while other fish just react wildly to being held.
As a Captain or an avid fisherman, it is important to know how to handle each fish to get it in the YETI or to release it safely and unharmed.
Sharks - All sharks are dangerous to handle. Often the smallest and least threatening can be the most likely to inflict damage on you. A small shark is overpowered by the tackle and comes in very fast. He still has plenty of energy. Grabbing him by the tail is a bad idea because most sharks can easily turn and bite their own tai, or your hand. The best way to handle sharks is to let them settle a bit and then use a long hook extractor that allows removal without ever getting close to the hook. Many people simply cut the line and leave the hook in the shark but we do not suggest this. Invest in a 3 foot long hook extractor and never have an issue
Toothy fish - Sharks are certainly toothy, but when I refer to toothy fish I mean mackerel, barracuda, wahoo, and fish that have an impressive grill that will simply take a finger right off if you put your finger in their mouth. Their mouth is designed to chop bones in half and it will work just fine on your fingers. These fish are either gaffed right behind the head if they are going to be kept or grabbed by the tail and supported under the belly to pick up and take out the hook. Alternatively, they can be handled by the gill plate if you know how to avoid the gill rakers.
Billfish - Despite the long sword on their face, billfish can be easier to handle then some of the smaller fish with teeth. They can jump into the boat or into the chest of the person handling them so intense care has to be taken to keep the bill pointed downrange when the tail is in the water. If it surges or jumps make sure that the bill is going away from you and everyone else in the boat. The bill, while dangerous, can be a nice handle. Billfish bills are rough and some of them are sharp so gloves need to be worn.
Spiny fish - There are lots of fish that have sharp spines or fins that anglers have to avoid. Snappers fall into the category of teeth and spines. One picture of Steve holding a Mutton snapper by the eyes got a lot of attention. The eye sockets can actually be a nice handle for a larger Mutton. Stay away from the sharp dorsals and anal fins by either holding it by the eye sockets or the gill plate on larger ones, but stay out of the mouth and away from the first few spines of the dorsal.
These are some quick tips on how we handle fish. Tell us on Instagram your techniques to handle dangerous or problematic fish.
See you next time on Into The Blue
Capt. Scott Walker & Capt. Steve Rodger