Sportfishing Best Practices

The Sportfishing Conservancy has attempted to compile the most relevant available information to provide a “Code of Best Practices for Marine Sportfishing.” We have borrowed from many, including the United Nations Fisheries and Aquaculture Organization, Fish Smart, the National Marine Fisheries Service, our own Code of Angling Ethics and others. Our goal is to provide a basic starting point for this very complex subject - this is clearly a work in progress. These guidelines are generally acceptable practices available on state, federal, and nonprofit websites. We ask for your help in refining and making this more complete.

Please forward suggestions to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and thanks in advance for your help.

Fish responsibly: “Best Practices” spring from taking responsibility for the way in which we conduct ourselves when fishing for sport. Please take a minute before you start to: A) Think B) lay out a game plan, C) work your plan and D) plan on releasing fish not kept for consumption or that are prohibited to retain, E) understand that in our great outdoors, plans often need adjustment.

1. Plan Ahead – decide whether you might want to or need to release fish on any given trip and prepare the equipment necessary to do so.

2. Avoid encountering fish that you are required to release. If catching fish that you cannot, or do not want to keep, changing the depth that you are fishing, moving to a different area, or using different bait are just a few techniques for avoiding unwanted catch.

3. Carry and use gear suited to the size and type of fish that you are trying to catch. Use circle hooks where recommended.

5. Land the fish as quickly as possible. If possible, leave them in the water rather than bringing them on board.

6. Carry and use proper release tools such as de-hookers, knotless rubberized landing nets, rubberized gloves, or wet towels (to avoid removing the slime layer from their body) and recompression tools to successfully release your catch.

7. When releasing fish time is of the essence! – Release fish promptly and do everything possible to ensure time out of water does not exceed 5 minutes.

Guidelines Specific for the Release of Saltwater Fish Caught in Deep Water

Some saltwater fish that are caught in deep water may be suffering from “barotrauma,” a build up of swim bladder gases that makes it difficult or impossible for them to go back down. Generally, fish caught deeper than 30 feet some effects. Starting in mid 2012, more specific guidance will be available at Until then, follow these tips:

IMPORTANT: The use of venting tools and dehooking devices is required when participating in the recreational reef fish fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico.

A. When anglers are not required by law to use venting tools, recompression is generally the first choice for returning fish to the depth from which they are caught. A variety of recompression tools are on the market, including descender devices, release weights, release baskets, and others. A complete inventory of such devices will be available at a later date from

B. Return fish to the depth of capture. If catching fish at very deep depths, returning them to at least 60 - 100 feet will dramatically improve survival.

C. If recompression is not possible, venting is a second option (use established guidelines for venting such as found at



Sportfishing Conservancy

"Recognizing that with privilege comes responsibility, the mission of the Sportfishing Conservancy is to empower sportsmen to fulfill and celebrate their commitment to their sport and to the real world conservation."


Student Scholarships

The Sportfishing Conservancy will award a total of eight (8) Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation Scholarships, valued at $500 each to the parent or guardian of children [under the age of 18].