Their use is not entirely uncommon, but there are very few options to buy them off the shelf. If you want one, it's largely a DIY affair.
While in the craft store the other week, I stumbled across THIS golf ball and scorecard display that seemed to be more or less the right dimensions (long and deep, but not wide) to handle a fish 11 inches or smaller. The store was having a HUGE sale (don't they always?) and I was able to score this clear "tank" for like $11.
On my last trip to Georgia, I figured I'd give it a go. Tucked away in my fishing backpack, I ended up using it on two or three fish.
So is this going to be a go-forward thing? Here are my thoughts on the release box, in no particular order.
- Window: What a great way to really visually study these fish. It's like peering through a window, you can really appreciate all the beauty Mother Nature put into rainbow trout. It also allows for a "hands free" and "net free" photograph, if that's your thing. My photos above weren't that great, or particularly in-focus, but that's user error and something I'd like to try and improve upon in the future.
- Scale: I'd like to add a ruler, or some marks to the outside, to give the fish a little bit of scale. These fish were in the 6-inch range, but in looking at the photos, nothing really indicates that. Would also be good to have if you're into keeping a fishing journal of your catches.
- Extra Bulk: It's something extra to carry. If I'm planning on bringing my fishing backpack anyway, it's an easy (and lightweight) add to that kit. But if I'm fishing where I'd use my slingpack or something smaller, it'll stay home. I wouldn't wear a backpack simply to bring this along.
- Condensation: Proved to be a minor issue. It was a hot day and when filled with cool water, the acrylic fogged up pretty quickly. Not a big deal, but looking at the fish through a foggy window wasn't the point.
- Stress? Does this put more stress on the fish? Beats me. They're in the water, so they're not being exposed to the air which I assume is good, but in keeping them out of the stream for a few more minutes than I normally would to study them more closely, I have to wonder if that actually imparts more stress than a quick net, lift for photo, and release?
- Fragility: This craft store "fish tank" probably isn't the sturdiest option. It's watertight, but I could see where the right amount of pressure in the wrong place could crack it. Most of the DIY release boxes are made of much stronger Plexiglas, this is not.
In all, and even though I mentioned a few faults above, I really did like using this release box albeit in a very limited fashion. It was a very inexpensive way to add an extra dimension to the fishing outing by giving you an opportunity to really study and observe the fish up close and still "keep em wet."
As I mentioned in the third bullet above, it probably won't come with me on each and every small stream fishing trip. However, if I am bringing along a few extras that necessitate the use of a backpack anyway, it's easy to pack and proves useful on stream.