Slime on the Body of a Fish

I didn’t know until recently how important the slime on sport fish is. Until a few years ago I thought it was just some type of mucus stuck to the fish. Then a fishing buddy of mine from California, who also happens to be a biologist, explained the purpose of the slime to me.

The slime on the body of a fish plays an important role in keeping the fish healthy. Without the layer of slime, (I know that sounds gross, sorry), the fish would probably die. That protective layer of slime is the first defense in the fish’s efforts to good health. It keeps such things as bacteria, parasites and infections away from the fish’s sensitive body. Several technics need to be incorporated in your fishing habits to protect the fish, especially if you are practicing catching and releasing. First off, at all times make sure your hands are wet before you handle a fish. This is the first step you can take to protect that layer of slime on the fish’s skin. Simply keep your hands wet when you are handling a fish that you have caught. Water and the slime do not mix, just like water and oil. Keep the fish in water as much as possible. Bass can only hold their breath about as long as you probably are able to. The weather and harsh winds can damage the skin on a fish also. I cannot stress enough how important it is to wet your hands before handling the fish. You must be careful not to remove the slime coat that protects the fish skin. Don’t handle the fish any longer than you have to, and be gentle, don’t drop the fish if you can keep from it. Remember, any abrasive surface the fish touches will remove that layer of slime from it’s skin

Avoid handling the fish for extended periods of time. Try your best not to drag the fish through the dirt or on the carpet of your boat. This will destroy the protective cover of slime over the fish’s skin. Without that protective cover, the fish is extremely susceptible to the bacteria, parasites and germs in the water. Bass and Crappie are sensitive creatures that can be injured much more easily than people think.

Since we are talking about the care of fish, let’s discuss the proper handling procedures. My Granddad always taught me to grab a fish by the gills and hang on tight. Well, the gills of a fish are very sensitive and can be destroyed easily. That would be like somebody giving you a huge bear hug and squeezing all of your air out. If you damage the gills of a fish, there is a 75% or better chance that the fish will go into shock and die sometime after that event. Always try to use the method called lipping, which is holding the fish by the lip. This way you avoid touching the skin and the protective layer of slime on it. Never bend the jaw back too far because you can break the jaw. Try to land your catches as soon as you can. The fish exerts a tremendous amount of energy fighting to be caught. If you are going to release the fish after you have caught it, then you are actually hurting it and lessening any chance of survival by wearing the fish out.


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