I read with interest a raging argument via lengthly and passionate Facebook posts in response to a photo of a girl on the deck of a boat next to an enormous Goliath grouper. On one side of the debate were the fishermen who respect the law, apply it, and keep their noses clean. On the other side were fishermen who apply their own rules, don't care about the current law, and thumb their noses at it. In a nut-shell, it is unlawful to remove Goliath grouper from the water except to quickly remove a hook.
One fellow argued that pulling a 150 lb. fish over the side of a boat is the equivalent of pulling a 150 lb. person over the side of a boat. The image touched a nerve. I do not weight 150, but when I've had to get back into a boat after a swim, or when I've slipped on the gunnel, the result is never pleasant: bruises, bruises, and more bruises.
When we went fishing last May for Tarpon, our guide took plenty of time to respirate the fish before letting them go. But he would not, under any circumstances, boat the Tarpon. No gaffs, no glory pictures, but lots of blurry pictures and wonderful memories. That was AOK with me. I know what it's like to 'be boated.' :)
Click here to read Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute's Techniques to Reduce Catch-and-Release Mortality.
Also, here is Sea Grant's short primer on proper Catch-and-Release.