Birds - How to release them...
Article by Mike Laubscher of Blue Water Charters | Durban
After being requested, I thought I would do a how to on successful catch and release of sea birds.
Just to clear the air, we do not target sea birds, but there are the days when you get a sea bird at the end of your line, the 2 main culprits are the big birds, the Gannet and the Albatross.
I am crazy about birds, and so for me it is of utmost importance that when they get hooked or tangled in my line I want to get them released with as little stress and injury as possible.
Always carry some anti-bacterial cream on your boat, a sharp CLEAN knife, Condi’s Crystals (Potassium permanganate), and a gas lighter, clean pliers and something that can cut hooks to deal with these birds. In fact if you own a bird at home you need this as a first aid kit.
Typically you will catch Gannets when fishing live baits, dead baits and even strip baits, Albatross on the other hand typically like to target smaller lures like feathers, but you will catch both species and smaller species on all these methods including stick baits and poppers or any surface lure.
Ok, so you have the bird hooked up first thing to do is to loosen the drag and let him run whilst you clear all lines.
Once all lines are cleared, you start reeling the bird in, remember this is not a fish and you cannot let him go under the water as you will drown him, if he goes under give him slack so he can come up and just reel him to the boat slow and steady so as not to add any more stress to the situation.
Once you get him to the boat, hold him there a few moments and let him see that he is not going to get attacked, then slowly bring him alongside. DO NOT REACH OUT and grab him, he will bite you, he is a wild animal.
Take you gaff (using the handle side) or any long stick and bring this down to him so he bites onto it, once he is holding onto this, you quickly grab him behind the head by the neck and hold him up, and then grab his feet.
DO NOT strangle the creature by grabbing around the throat, rather let your fore finger and thumb grip him firmly on the lower jaw/beak.
Now that you are holding the bird securely so he cannot injure you or himself you can deal with the line. Talk to him in a low soothing voice.
If he has swallowed your hooks, DO NOT try to pull them out his throat this will kill the bird, cut the line and leave them there as they will go down to his stomach and be eaten away by his stomach acids quickly.
If he is hooked anywhere else, you need to remove the hooks without ripping a huge hole in the bird, cut the hook and pull it through.
Usually the Gannets get hooked and the Albatross get entangled. Gannets can give a very nasty bite and keep the birds far away from your eyes because they will take a peck if given a 1/4 of a chance.
Treat wound with anti-bacterial cream, if bleeding use the condi's crystal as this stops bleeding. It is very important to stop bleeding as birds have very little blood and can drain in moments. If the wound is more severe and only if absolutely necessary you need to heat the sharp knife till red hot and quaterise the wound. It is far better to treat the bird and release it asap than to bring it back to shore.
Once treated holding the bird with 2 hands, one by the neck and one by the feet, lean over the gunnels and drop him into the water. Gannets will dive immediately where as Albatross will run on the water.