We all understand that accidents happen, sometimes good ones, and some very special non-target fish are caught. But, these fish are spawning at this time of year and are very sensitive to stress from handling. The NYS DEC is considering enforcing this as a violation when these fish are removed from the water by anglers for photos. The fish should be unhooked in the water and released as quickly as possible. In a recent photo from Massena, you can see by the fish’s pectoral fins and how they are collapsed that this fish has been out of the water for too long. They may swim off after released, but can die later from the stress and build up of lactic acid from the fight. This is called “delayed mortality” and can happen with any fish species, but particularly big muskies. These big breeder fish, the biggest are females and genetically superior so we want them to live and spawn, are crucial to maintaining the unique fisheries we have on the St. Lawrence and some of the tributaries where muskie populations are self-sustaining. Posting these photos, whether the catch is accidental or not, condones this practice and potential mishandling, and in some cases condones fishing out of season where anglers think because they are releasing the fish it is okay to fish for them out of season.