Those who like to fish purely for the sport of it often abide by a "catch and release" policy: Reel in the fish, unhook it, and let it go free again to make sure stocks don't get depleted. But a first-of-its kind study suggests that what seems like a happy ending for both fish and fishermen isn't so great for the fish after all, reports BGR. Researchers at the University of California-Riverside found that fish caught with a hook in or near the mouth have a significantly tougher time feeding afterward, they report in the Journal of Experimental Biology. As in, the perch in the study sucked in food 34% slower than perch caught with a net, reports Discover.
“We were surprised with how dramatic the difference was,” says lead researcher Tim Higham. The finding suggests that catch-and-release poses a risk to a fish's survival, but the researchers say more study is needed to determine whether this adds up to a "significant impact on survival." For example, they need to figure out if feeding improves as the injury heals. Still, if the results are confirmed, it could lead to changes such as smaller hooks or the rethinking of catch-and-release practices for rare fish, per Discover. (You probably don't watch to catch this fish in Oklahoma.)