When a fish goes belly up, is it going to die?

Every time we’ve tossed a fish back in the water – it goes belly up. Does this mean it’s going to die?

When practicing catch and release, it’s of the utmost importance that you’re not just “throwing” the fish back into the water.  By doing so, you’re greatly decreasing any odds the fish has of surviving.  You mentioned the fish often go “belly up”, a  reaction that is brought on when the fish goes into shock.  Quite often, if the fish has been out of the water for very long or held in water that isn’t the close to the same temperature of the water you’re returning them to, they’ll go into shock.  While they can recover from this, if you’ve returned the fish to the sea, floating belly up will probably be an open invitation to any and all predators in the area.  It is quite likely that the fish will be overcome before the shock wears off.  If you’re releasing fish back into the water, it’s important to hold them until they actually begin to move on their own.  If you’re in a boat, you can move slowly while holding the fish overboard.  When the fish has recovered or adjusted to the shock of being placed back in the water, he’ll simply swim away.  Taking a few extra minutes to allow the fish to readjust rather than just throwing him overboard could mean the difference between life and death.

Daniel Eggertsen
Dan Eggertsen is a fellow saltwater fishing enthusiast to the point of obsession. :) He's been providing solid advice on saltwater fishing since 2004.

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