BF: People tell me, "well fish get hooked again and again, so they must not feel pain." What do you say to that?
CB: They need to eat. There is too much uncertainty in the world to let a meal go by. Many will strike even when they are completely full. That part is instinct. But you actually have to train hatchery-reared fishes to recognize and attack live prey. Having said that, there is also plenty of evidence that shows that fish can and do develop hook shyness, even after just a single exposure. Sometimes this shyness can last over a year. People will often say to me, "but I keep catching the same fish." Well yeah, if you were starving and someone kept putting a hook in your hamburger (say 1 in every 10 had a hook) what would you do? You keep eating hamburgers because if you don't you starve to death.
BF: How long does it take a fish to suffocate to death?
CB: It depends on the species. If you landed a tuna or mackerel, they'd be dead in 10 minutes. It's not a pretty way to go. The oxygen can still cross the gill membrane while it is wet, but it won't be enough to keep the fish alive. So unlike drowning in humans, where we die in about 4 to 5 minutes because we can't extract any oxygen from water, fish can go on for much longer. It's a prolonged slow death most of the time, which is pretty horrible, when you think about it.