I am far from the only angler who’s been asked whether fish feel pain when hooked. While having no definitive answer, my feeling has always been the answer is no. Now a study at the University of Wisconsin, and reported in the scientific journal Fish and Fisheries, has attempted to put the question to rest.
A team injected acid or bee venom into the jaws of rainbow trout. They reported little effects on the trout, suggesting at the same time a human similarly tested would have experienced significant pain.
While a test of a single species may not be considered by some to represent all species of fish, it is a strong data point. And some might argue, as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals do, that fish exhibit other behaviors that represent pain.
So the debate likely will continue.
At this point, I think the best approach is to treat fish, like all other animals – and people for that matter, with respect. Fish hooked should be landed quickly to prevent the buildup of lactic acid; if sport fish they should be left in the water and quickly released; and if a fish is to be killed, it should be done quickly.
You can read the article here.