A recent study demonstrates that proper catch, photo, measurement, and release can result in 100% survival. [For the complete study see: www.muskiescanada.ca].
The study notes that a previous study that indicated a lower survival rate was influenced by stressors created by the study itself.
This is encouraging and validates what many avid musky anglers suspected; musky aren't as fragile as we thought when caught quickly and released by "specialized anglers" with appropriate tackle catch, photo, measurement, and release techniques.
Both the control group muskies that were released without a photo and measurement and the ones that were photographed and measured survived.
The trick is to do what we practice in the CEA, educate on proper catch and release techniques and minimize the time out of water. Land the musky quickly, use an appropriate net such as the Big Kahuna, unhook the lure as quickly as possible while the musky is still in the net (cutting the hooks with knipex cutters if needed), and lift the musky out of the net for a quick photo and measurement (in the case of the study, time out of water was 90 seconds).
The study showed that "no significant differences in physiological status were noted between fish handled with and without 90 s[econds] of air exposure." 90 seconds being the amount of time the fish was out of water for a photo and measurement on a bump board.
The study does note, however, that "the severity and duration of a stressor may have profound effects on the stress response in fishes."
Other studies on other fish species indicated that if the angling time is lengthened (that is, if someone fights a fish instead of shortening the fight by using at least 80 pound test and netting as soon as possible) and time out of water increased, there is a dramatic increase in physiological stress.
The study also indicated, as Cranky Craig observed on Let's Talk Fishing a couple of weeks ago, that physiological stresses increased if musky are caught in the peak heat of the summer. However, it also indicated zero mortality even during warmer temperatures if catch and release stressors were minimized and proper CPMR was practiced.