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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Thanks, Bill. We respect and admire these fish, and extend the courtesy of good stewardship wherever we can.
Must of us think of them as a valued resource, certainly, with a certain fondness thrown in.
Thanks for the great response.

Excellent post Leo! I have also read articles about jaw damage by holding a fish by it's lower jaw. I am not sure about the wet towel method of handling fish. It would seem to me that using wet a towel would also remove protective slime from the fish. I will say it seems better than a dry towel, but why use one at all? There are rubber coated fishing gloves that can be wet for those that do not care to handle the fish bare handed. I have been guilty of handling fish I plan to release with dry hands, and never really thought about having some lake water in a bucket to wet my hands with first. 

We all know that fish have mouths, and generally speaking, a larger fish has a larger mouth. Is it really necessary to stick our hands or thumbs in their mouth to show this? I know a lot of this comes from watching "pros" do this on TV. I have seen a lot of mistakes being made by those that so many view as fishing teachers. There are very few fishing shows I care to watch any more, because most of them are no more than highly edited 30 minute segments of "pros" reeling in fish after fish, with little or no information on methods to actually catch more fish. Seeing a "pro" drag a played out fish back and forth along the side of his boat to get one more jump out of them, then lip them for the viewers infuriates me. 

 Again Leo, thank you for opening our eyes on a proper CPR technique. I think we all can learn something from his post.  

Right on Vince! But the lip is the best way to hold a large bass. Granted you must support the lower body while lipping the fish. It ensures that no slime comes off and you have basically no chance of dropping the fish.

Good point,Jacob. As I was writing, I had a picture in my head of someone holding a Bass or other fish the usual way, by lipping it and having it's body in a horizontal position. Just a thought, would it possibly be ok to support the fish, and slip your fingers under the gill plate without getting in the gills themselves for a picture prior to release? Any other thoughts on this?

Many articles were done one this, and the verdicts came out pretty much the same: "Don't!"

The non-visual damages exceed beyond what can/could be observed. The chance of injuring the fish much greater than damaging the jaw by lipping.

Anytime you go through the gill plate, you risk some damage to the fish so I would say #1 best option for large fish is to lip or Boga Grip the fish in the mouth and support the body with the off hand.

Jacob is dead on in lipping the fish, let it be holding it in the water, or supportive with the secondary hand.

The towel that's commonly used by me is a micro nylon mesh on one side, cotton for holding onto massive amount of water for moisture on the other. Like a poly-nylon based net used for handling trout, the towel is more a cradling method to effectively control the fish from thrashing around, either be for measurement purposes, or removing a very bad hook embedding deep in the mouth (not gut hooking). However, you're dead on about using your hands, rather than gloves, towel, or anything else. Your hands are the most natural protective material for the fishes, if you properly wet them.

There are various methods to achieve the CPR to decrease and eliminate mortality rates. One person's method may be better that other, even though the method may seem ab it, estranged.

I did the vertical lip hang on a 2+ pound bass today. I couldn't wet my hands, keep the rod out of the brambles at waters edge, keep my footing on the steep bank, cradle a pissed off fish.... AND unhook the thing,, too. It was the lesser of evils, and I don't Pro-grip my fish, anyway.

It didn't take long, though, as I had de-barbed the hook about halfway. I just slipped it back in nice and quiet like and it face splashed me as it took off...

I don't believe any harm was done. And, I managed to not fall in, too.
Good to hear that you're not swimming the fish, it's a good day when both returns home safely, wirh a fish tale for both sides to discuss about over dinner.

This needs more evidence but I would venture that a smaller bass has such a large jaw for its weight that the lip is acceptable as long as it isn't the famous "jaw-breaker" horizontal one hander.

Jacob, you truly are mastering your arts instinctively through observation and experience.

Collective data on fish anatomy is based on the max expansion of the fish jaw, which already exceeds the jaw-line capacity/stress level, where the fish utilized to consume its prey for that instinctive moment. I believe we have a saying of, "the stomach/eyes is/are bigger than the mouth." Most jawline stressor level is merely in a few seconds, to accommodate the prey entering into the elongated oral and  asophageal cavity.

We, on other hand, handle the fish a bit longer than a few seconds, exceeding that time limit for a quick natural recovery rate. It's like us having a twisted arm during an arm lock, resulting in a light sprain, vs a full dislocation. Recovery time is quite a bit longer. Well, the better comparison would be a TMJ micro sprain vs a partial jaw dislocation at the joints. My wife experienced both. Recovery time in comparison, oooooo..don't even want to recall the numerous time she suffered. The fishes can't tell us, "Hey man, we're in pain here." So, we need to be sensitive to their well being.

You are right about vertical handling just for that few critical seconds, while lipping. It's not advised, but at time, required due to circumstances, just like how David performed bank fishing catch and release methods. Either handle a certain way, or he ended up swimming with the fish. Of course, netting is the best choice when we are unable to enter into the water for proper handling method.

I still see the "jaw-breaker" combined with the "one-hander" poses done by the local anglers. I crinch when I see the fishes being handled at 55° angling upwards, regardless of the size, with the only support were their jaws wide opened. You can see the stresses on the jaw tissues during those poses for photos. Some occasions, I could still see the jaw locked open as the fishes swam away from the photos.

That's what I call the Pro grip... your jaw breaker.
I don't do it. So the fish hangs vertical, no horizontal, "TV" poses.

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