Bluegill - Big Bluegill

Do you love big bluegill?

Not certain about the most of us, but since I'm a float tuber and a pontooner, I'm close to the surface of the water, already at arms level to hold the fishes in horizontal, double-handled method, wetting my hands before man-handling the fish. When I'm on the shoreline, I always have a 5 gallon bucket filled with the local water, preserving the natural biomatters and organics within that water to wet my hands with before handling the fish.

However, I can confidently say 90% of us still hold the fish vertically when we CPR (capture, picture, release) holding large species, aside from the smaller, lighter, bubble weight BGs. Why would this matter?

Fishes in the water swim horizontally. They descend and ascend horizontally, in an angle. They don't go vertical in the water. When being pulled out the water, the majority of the body mass suddenly shifts from horizontal to vertical, creating stresses both on the jaw and the body. Imagine you're wearing a 100lbs weight in additional to your own body weight, and someone grab you by the jaw, lifts you up, and suspends you from a minute to probably 3 minutes. What's the damages resulting from that event?

The comeback statement probably fired back like, "Well, I CPR, and nothing happen to the fishes."

How would you know? Do you swim with the fish for the next 3 to 5 days, to monitor their physiological damages before they go belly up? There are many documented events at my waters where double digit bass bellied up, not only being dragged from the depth too quickly without proper deflation, but also jawline damages due to improper handling. There goes the prized sport fishes the bass chasers are so happy to nurture.

"I handle my fish with one hand horizontally with no problem."

Sorry to say, but you just damage the fish's jaw, preventing it from properly feeding due to permanent opened jawlock. You might as well have kept it.

"I properly handle the fishes using both hands during CPR."

Did you actually protect the fishes by wetting your hands first, or place it on a wet towel to prevent the protective slime layer from being stripped off?

Sport fishermen like to toss their catches right back into the water like the fishes are dolphins. My gosh, I see 10 to 25 years veterans, holding the huge fishes by one hand on the jaws, and just swung those poor thing right off into the waters like their yesterday dead baits. I'm just baffled of their knowledge in handling prized fishes that they are chasing after. For me, I don't really care. I chase after fishes that I can eat, not released to be caught over and over again. However, catching a water monsters and release it will be a blessing to brag about in the decades to come, with cautious handling tactics.


We're all guilty of mishandling the CPR fishes. I'm included at time when I have to handle an aggressive fish for CPR. However, since I'm on the float, I tried my best to hold onto the fishes in the water, setting up the CPR station/deck/apron, and get the fishes into/onto it. But, the fishes that I will hold onto for my dinner, I will manhandle it vertically, or with one hand, clearly indicating that those victims will be my meals.


What's your take?

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We are enlightened. Think you Tim and Leo.

Leo...thanks for this timely, and neccessary post

In reference to my first reply I would like to add that the damage to the jaw area would probably be more apparent in a fish that was held horizontal by the lower lip.    This would be called the "jaw breaker pose".

Indeed, I'm guilty for doing this on the fishes that I caught in the past, of course, all those became my dinner. Those who I release, I fashioned a holding area with measuring and digital weighing as the fishes are laid down to their side, creating a docile behavior. I tried the slightly inverted design to angle the fish's belly upward at a 25°, but the platform is not as stable as the plain old flat surface. May have to go back and redesign something a bit more practical to include the digital scale below it as well.

I think It depends upon the size of the fish in question, to a great degree. A longer, heavier  fish, like a LMB, would surely suffer moreso from the infamous "one handed", horizontal jaw hold than an 8 oz Bluegill. When I catch BG, or any fish for that matter, I let the size of the fish itself dictate how I land it, and hold it. If it's under, say, 3/4 lb, then I usually lift it out by the line....more than a pound, and I kneel down and hand land it. And, I always hold BG with the fish's belly toward my palm, but not deep enough in my hand to where the stomach touches my palm. Four fingers on one side, and a thumb on the other. This does two things...it's an easy way to hold the fish upside down while removing the hook, and it places the dorsal spines away from my hand, facing into open air.

Indeed you are right Tony. Compare to an LMB, BG is bubble/feather weight. BGs are small enough to be handled one-handed, as we can also craddle it using our remaining fingers aside from the thumb and index for lipping. However, even with a BG, we still take upon the precaution to craddle thatprized catch of a lifetime, as we are planning to release it back to the waters, minimizing to eliminating any possibility of injuring it any further.

Thanks guys I haven't really thought much about all this, but it really makes sense and as a nurse I really appreciate it and will attempt to educate my kids and friends.

Fantastic post Leo! I think the human jaw analogy is good but somewhat flawed in that most fish have a much higher "lip" surface area to body weight. If you think about it we (150 pounds) have smaller lip than a 3 pound bass. I've read numerous reports saying that the vertical hold is fine for Largemouth Bass until they reach about 10 pounds, then they must be supported with the other hand. But great post anyway Leo thanks!

Indeed, that human jaw analogy is heavily flawed, but attention grabber..heh? LOL It's comparing orange to apple, but the apple sure got the point across.

Agreed! I want to throw something at the television when I see one of those bass dudes holding a fish out of the water vertically for 2 minutes! It gets me!

Leo, the way I like to describe the fish handling  in the boat from the fish's perspective is  imagine running a 100 yard dash then when you cross the finish line someone puts a plastic bag over your head, and yes vertical and by the jaw is worse than horizonal, but I dont have problem with this because I release them into the ice chest, I eat bluegill , I eat big bluegill , I quit at the limit and the challenge is not to catch little ones , therefor I dont have to worry about how many fish that I have released that will died over the next 3-5 days, or worry about barotrauma in released fish.  Now  let me tell you where I fish, I fish in old oxbow and rivers that Mother Nature takes care of the balance instead of man trying to manipulate the enviroment, my impact on the population is a ripple instead of a tidal wave, and within the law, and I dont feel like I am harrassing wildlife catching and releasing some back to die, so all yall practicing catch and release , Thanks , I like eating Free Range Big Bluegill   LOFR

If you're lucky and blessed with water bodies that have low to no fishing pressure, you are indeed, a lucky angler. Unfortunately for most of us, we're surrounded by anglers that don't care, don't know better, and of course, cry ignorance, yet, the waters could not keep up with production of enough of good to great size fishes. You truly are dead on when you're indicating human intervention in other urbanized water bodies is more like a tsunami, rather than a tidal wave, on the aqua culture. I still shiver as I recall the thoughts how destructive old and young generations of ignorant anglers can be as they bring more destruction to the dwindling resources of the existing water bodies. Just like you, I love to indulge myself in the free range BGs as well..nothing make me and my family more happy.

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