1. Plan ahead. Minimize stress and exhaustion by using tackle strong enough to land fish quickly. Set hooks quickly to minimize the opportunity for fish to swallow hooks and avoid the use of treble hooks. When practical, bend down the barbs on hooks or use barbless hooks. When using bait consider the use of circle hooks, which minimize the possibility of "deep-hooking" fish.
2. Minimize the handling of fish, and do not touch the eyes or gills. Large fish are best released by leaving them in the water and removing the hooks. Small fish should be brought on board and handled with a damp towel or damp cotton gloves, which will minimize damage to the fish's skin and protective slime coating. Control the fish, gently but firmly, so it cannot "flop" around and cause itself any further injury. Do not use a gaff to boat large fish; consider using a large net.
3. Use the right tools to remove the hooks. Needlenose pliers work well for fish hooked in the mouth, while a deep-throat dehooker or disgorger should be used for fish hooked deeply in the throat. Cut the leader close to the fish's mouth for fish hooked deeply in soft tissue areas (stomach, eg.) or if hook removal is not possible. Never pull or jerk on the leader to remove a hook.
4. Release fish gently, and if the fish is stressed or exhausted, revive it by gently moving it forward through the water until it is able to swim off.
In the interest of good sportsmanship
and good conservation ... keep only
what you need ... release the rest.