Ok, let me preface this post by saying I hope that we get some good input on this subject. My hopes are that folks will listen and lend info to everyone on a rather controversial subject. Whether it's a Boga Grip style scale or a simple plastic hand gripper like this http://www.ebay.com/itm/The-Fish-Gri...kAAOSwh6xTrrR3
There are always opinions on why or why not use them.
I have been asked several times why I insist on them and figured I would address it publicly.
To those who don't know, the single major issue folks have with grippers is that the jaws of big fish have been literally ripped in half from these grippers. I must explain that I NEVER EVER suspend the full weight of any large fish from their jaw. It simply hurts the fish on some level whether the jaw splits in half, or the throat gets strained, it's just not good for the fish. I am not talking about bass, as I have never heard any stories of bass in CO being damaged by lipping them. That said, I personally will not suspend a large fish by the jaw, whether it's a bass or not.
So why am I preaching having a lipper on your boat and in your possession at all times when fishing for big fish? Because when used properly, it's the easiest way to control a fish without hurting it.
I started a conversation with a guide buddy of mine who mainly targets musky and pike. I wanted information on every detail of his releases as he does it 10x more than me. I def fish for pike a ton, and I have tried to improve my releases to help the fish, but my buddy had a few things to add that helped me improve. The main thing I changed was keeping pike in the water boatside in the net for 30 or so seconds before bringing them on board. Many folks have boats that sit low enough to where they can release the fish while still in the net, my boat doesn't allow this. So initially, I just let the fish rest after the fight, under water, still in the net. After 30 seconds or sometimes even more, I bring the fish on board and work efficiently to get the fish unhooked (good idea to get your tools ready while the fish rests in the water). Here is where the grippers come into play.... As soon as the fish is on board the very first thing I do is attach the gripper. Getting the spreader in the fishes mouth (nearly always necessary with big fish) is SO much easier when you have the gripper attached and holding the fish... If the fish rolls, simply let go of the gripper until it stops.
So once the spreader is open and you can get to the hook, unhook the fish and you likely want a pic. I see tons of pics of big fish (myself included) where folks put their hands under the gill plate and support the belly. This is not the end of the world, but you are still getting your hands into the gills and while we try to keep gentle while your hand is in there, it's tough some times. Also, if you get your hand too far back, the sucker gets sharp as hell and can slice you worse than the teeth. With the gripper, you can get your off hand under the belly and control the head with the gripper. It makes for a good picture and is gentle as possible on the fish...
Now, the last part, which I think is the most important. I encourage folks to release fast as possible... Get a pic or three and get that fish back in the water. With the fish still attached to the lipper, we put our trolling motor on slow. This tows the fish, very slowly from the tip of the mouth. If any of you have ever tried to do this while holding the fish, it's nearly impossible because the head wants to move and they are slippery as hell. With the gripper, I have towed a fish for up to 5 minutes to revive the fish, not only to the point of being just able to swim, but rather, to the point they are in a very good place to swim off strongly. The fish lets you know what kind of condition they are in... they will slowly start to move side to side... then as they get back to good health, they will start to truly kick, at which point, you can release the lipper (but I still will keep the one end in the mouth just in case, until the fish leaves on it's own).
The one thing I recommend is to take a dremmel tool and round the sharp edges on the lipper... Not sure why the manufacturer isn't doing this.. it's two small edges on the top and bottom portion of the lip gripper.
I hope folks will add to this and continue to try and preserve the big fish in our state.. I truly feel we have great fisheries for trophies in CO. Our trophy pike fishing is as good or better than almost anywhere in the country. The big fish are fun to catch and photograph, lets hope we do all we can to keep em around.