Physiology, behaviour and welfare of fish during recreational fishing and after release

P. S. Davie, R. K. Kopf

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This review investigates how recreational fishing affects the physiology, behaviour, and welfare of fish. Sentience and the capacity of fish to experience pain, suffering and fear are discussed, and practical recommendations for improving the treatment of fish during recreational fishing are provided. Handling procedures used in recreational fishing should match the environment where the fish is caught and the size and strength of the fish. Minimising the number of hooks on lures and baits, and using barbless hooks and circle hooks generally reduce rates of injury and the severity of tissue trauma. Capture time, handling time, and exposure to air play significant roles in the stress responses of fish and should be minimised by anglers. Keepnets, gaffs, landing-nets, live-wells and other restraining devices should only be used when necessary because each device can prolong or intensify the negative influences of catching fish by hook -and-line. The use of fish as bait is discouraged unless they have been euthanised. Euthanasia offish used as bait or fish captured recreationally should include a stunning blow to the head, followed by bleeding-out, or pithing the brain and spinal cord. Fish should be euthanised if they are bleeding, injured, deeplyhooked, foul-hooked, or severely exhausted, but local fisheries’ regulations must be obeyed. Fish that are released after being caught may be subjected to additional factors that influence their welfare, such as elevated stress, barotrauma, suppressed feeding and growth, impaired reproductive function, increased potential for disease, infection, and delayed mortality.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)161-172
Number of pages12
JournalNew Zealand Veterinary Journal
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2006
Externally publishedYes


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