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How Long Can A Fish Survive Out Of Water?

Mark Armstrong
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When you finally catch a fish, sometimes it can take a bit of time to take the hook out. And if you try to take pictures, the fish can be out of the water for even longer. So you’re probably wondering just how long a fish can survive once you’ve taken it out the water.

Short Answer: It depends!

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While there may not be a definitive answer to this question, we thought we’d provide a little information to give you a rough idea of how long some species of fish can survive out of water.

How Long Can A Fish Survive Out Of The Water?

Can Fish Survive Out Of Water?

Yes, fish can survive out of water but the length of time they can remain out of water will depend on what species they are.

Generally, fish breathe by taking in oxygen from the water using their gills. However, there are several species of fish that have adapted to enable them to also breathe out of the water by taking in oxygen through their skin.

Some fish, such as the West African lungfish can even survive out of water for up to several years in periods of drought.

Most fish that you catch will not have these unique features and shouldn’t be kept out of the water for too long. Think about if you were to under water and hold your breath. This is essentially the same thing for a fish out of water.

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Water Temperature

The temperature of the water will usually affect how long a fish can survive because warm water tends to hold less oxygen than cold water.

This can mean that some cold water species may struggle to breathe in warm water temperatures and the stress from being out in the air once caught could then have a negative effect.

When you’re fishing and want to keep the fish alive in a bucket, for example, you should also keep the temperature in mind, as well as the fact that the water will need to be aerated to maintain oxygen levels so that the fish can still breathe.

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Catching Fish

Most fish can survive being out of the water for a few of minutes after you catch them, for example, when you’re removing the hook or taking a photo. But the length of time you keep them out of the water can affect how long it might take them to recover after you release them.

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The length of time you can hold them safely out of the water may also be affected by the length of time it took you to land the fish. If the fish put up a fight, chances are it may not be able to hold its breath for as long as if it was landed quickly.

Most bass can probably survive out of the water for around 10 minutes. But it’s recommended that you put the fish back in the water as soon as possible if you plan to release it, to avoid unnecessarily stressing it out.

Other fish, like trout for example, that live in colder water, need high levels of oxygen to survive. This means they may not survive for as long once they’re out of the water.

However, trout should survive long enough for you to remove your hook and take a picture if you’re quick. But it can be a good idea to keep their time out of water to under 30 seconds, as this can give the fish a better chance of survival once it’s released.

No matter what type of fish you’re trying to catch, it’s always a good idea to minimize the stress to the fish if you plan to release it afterwards. This means you should ideally aim to land it quickly and have it out of the water for as little time as possible before returning it.

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