What does fish SAFE (or more precisely Fish S.A.F.E) actually mean?

S.A.F.E. angling stands for Sustaining Angling, Fish and Ecosystems. The concept belongs to US-based non-profit angling organisation, Recycled Fish, which promotes a conscientious, sustainable and environmentally friendly approach to fish, fishing and fisheries.

Recycled Fish Logo

S.A.F.E. angling began by promoting catch and release but it has since grown to mean much more. It now includes fish conservation, biodegradable baits, barbless hooks, knotless nets and a total ban on lead. The idea is to promote products and practices that are good for the fish, the fisheries and, ultimately, for the fishermen, and their code is to become not just a fishermen but a ‘steward’ of the waterways.

Here are 20 SAFE fishing tips. They can help you support SAFE angling through the tackle you use and the way that you use it:

10 SAFE Tackle Tips

  1. Use barbless hooks
  2. Replace treble hooks with single hooks (believe it or not, they hook just as well!)
  3. Go lead-free, especially when it comes to weights and split-shot
  4. If you use soft plastics, switch to biodegradable moulded baits (or at least shred- and tear-resistant plastics
  5. Maintain your lures. Use super glue, a toothpick or some other means to secure trailers and materials onto your hooks
  6. Use ‘Quick-Strike’ rigs for trolling live and dead bait presentations
  7. Use circle or ‘Kahle’ hooks with live- and deadbait rigs
  8. Do not fish too light. Using a suitable rod, reel and line allows for the timely landing of fish, reducing stress and conserving their strength
  9. Use knotless nets
  10. Release fish in the water using as little physical contact as possible

10 SAFE Angling Tips

Handle fish with care and practice good catch > photo > release

  2. Obey all fish and game laws and take fish sparingly

  3. Never leave live- and deadbait rods unattended. Use bells or bite alarms
  4. Use steel, titanium or heavy monofilament leaders when you are likely to encounter ‘toothy critters’ like pike and musky
  5. Set hooks immediately (unless using circle hooks)

  6. Hold fish horizontally, supporting their weight. Do not hold fish vertically by the gills or mouth, particularly larger fish

  7. Use livebaits caught from same body of water that they will be used in or bait you’ve purchased from an approved baitshop. Never dump minnows or minnow bucket water into a lake or stream and never transfer fish from one water to another

  8. Remove all unnecessary hooks from lures

  9. Seal heavy jigs with chip-resistant paint, epoxy or clear sealer, especially if using lead
  10. Clean boats, waders, boots and tackle between different fishing locations to avoid the transfer of invasive species

Following these tips should lead to a better situation for everybody – especially the fish. For a list of approved SAFE angling products, click here.

James Green About James Green

James Green loves nothing more than casting a fly in pursuit of salmon, seatrout or, when the opportunity arises, a tailing bonefish, tarpon or permit.