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As carp anglers we have a duty to protect the fish we catch, ensuring we look after their health and return them to the water as safely and as quickly as we possibly can. 
Prepare your kit beforehand 
Before you even start fishing you should be prepared for what happens when you catch. The last thing you want to be doing is fumbling around for your landing equipment when you’re playing a fish. 
Make sure you are ready with your landing net, your unhooking mat, your forceps, antiseptic and if you need them, your scales. Having all of this kit ready and accessible will help to make the process from landing to releasing the fish as quick and seamless as possible, causing the least amount of stress you can. 
Don’t keep the fish out of water for too long 
There’s some debate how long a carp is okay out of the water for, but in all honesty the approach should be to get the fish landed, unhooked, treated, weighed, photographed and back in the water in the shortest possible time. Personally, I like to achieve the whole thing within two to three minutes. 
It’s also important to have a bucket of water ready by the side of the unhooking mat, because the mat needs to be wet to stop the mucus that covers the carp from being stripped by the dry mat. In hot weather, it’s also important to keep the fish wet and cool. 
Minimise the handling of the fish 
When you catch a fish you’re particularly proud of, the temptation can be to have a lot of pictures taken with it. The reality is though, the more you handle a fish, the more damage you are likely to do. 
Carp are covered in a membrane that can be stripped with human contact. Knowing this, you should buy a good quality, soft mesh landing net. When you catch a fish, land it in the next and transport it to an unhooking mat in the wet net. Once it’s on the mat, try to remove the hook without touching the fish. 
Only pick up the fish when and if you want to have a photograph with it, and even then try to keep it low to the mat. Remember, it’s a live animal and if it moves, you could drop it and cause potentially fatal harm (if the fish is dropped from a height). 
Return the fish to the water with care 
The playing and landing of a fish is both exhausting and stressful to the carp, so when you return the fish to water, give it a few moments to breathe and regain its strength before letting it go fully. 
There are a number of ways to do this, but if you have a good quality landing net you can keep it in there for a short while (5-10 seconds). I personally allow the fish a few moments to regain its composure in the net before setting it free in the lake, which is done by dipping the net into deeper water, allowing the fish to swim away at its leisure. 
Looking after the fish for the next generation 
Our duty as carp anglers is to respect the fish as well as to protect them and the sport for future generations. Follow these tips and you’ll ensure the carp are well looked after for their and your fellow anglers’ benefit. 
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