HERE we look at something vitally important... how to look after your fish once you have caught them.

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Fish care is top priority for all anglers – or should be. The importance of safe and humane handling of all species has been ever growing, and carp anglers and proactive fishery owners have led the way.

This concerned attitude is reflected by the sheer volume of fish welfare products currently available.

There’s everything from fully padded and protective cradles for the heavyweights, through to various antiseptic products for treating hook wounds, sores and other blemishes.

Thankfully, the majority of day ticket and club stillwater fisheries now make unhooking mats mandatory.

In fact, we wouldn’t be at all surprised if mats were made an Environment Agency law in the future, with strict consequences for those caught on the bank without one.

Any damage, no matter how insignificant, can penetrate vital protective mucus layers, rendering it susceptible to fatal secondary infections.

Damage caused by mishandling also leaves fish more vulnerable to disease – so treat your quarry with care and you’ll help to keep your venue’s inhabitants in tip-top nick for future generations.

Key fish care pointers

Keeping calm and collected helps the whole procedure run smoothly.

The last thing you want is a lively fish flapping around on the mat while you’re frantically searching out forceps, slings and scales buried somewhere among your kit.

Minimise the time that your fish is out of the water by having everything close to hand.

Always ensure that your unhooking mat is under the fish for trophy pictures, and keep it low to the ground at all times, just in-case.

Never pose for photos standing up with a fish.

Damage to any fishes delicate gill rakes can cause haemorrhaging which can prove fatal, so be aware of where your hands are when handling your catch.

Take care when removing hooks set far back. Jabbing away with a disgorger isn’t going to do the fish any favours and the clumsy use of forceps near those fragile gills is a recipe for disaster.

Where possible, unhooking a fish and releasing it from the net is by far the safest method for avoiding unnecessary damage.

Don’t release the fish straight away. Give it time to make a full recovery before gently lowering the net and allowing the fish to regain its composure and swim off when it’s good and ready.

Treating freshly made hook wounds and any other sores help to keep prized fish stocks in tip-top health.

Kryston Klin-ik coarse fish antiseptic and the Korda’s carp care kit, which contains two different liquids, have both been popular over recent years and are ideal for applying to wounds.

Bonjela and Orabase, available from pharmacies, are good alternative treatments.

Beware that fish often become agitated during the unhooking process and flap around frantically. This can result in lost mucus that acts as a natural barrier against disease and infections.

Dousing the unhooking mat with plenty of lake water helps to minimise mucus loss.

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