If you fish long enough, sooner or later you’ll hook a seagull. In fact, through the years I’ve managed to hook and land gulls, frigates, pelicans, and once, a hen mallard. Nine times out of 10 the bird gets hooked because it flew into your line, though on occasion, a particularly determined (hungry?) gull will actually eat a bait or lure. When something like this happens, you need to know how to release the bird without hurting it. First because that’s the law, and second because NO GULLS DO NOT TASTE LIKE CHICKEN!!!
The first thing to remember is that the bird is a scared animal. Will it lash out, and try to hurt you? Youbetcha. Over and over again, in any way possible. After being brought aboard it will also attempt to fly, even when partially tangled. So the first thing you should always do when a bird of any species gets hauled aboard is toss a towel or an extra T-shirt over its head. When deprived of sight, like many animals, they tend to calm down quite a bit.
The second thing you need to do is hold the bird’s wings against its body, so it doesn’t attempt to flap. One person can accomplish both of these tasks by holding the cloth over the bird’s head, wrapping the ends under the bird, and then bringing them back across the bird’s back and wings. Packaged up like so, you can begin trying to untangle the line, or if necessary, remove the hook.
Once the bird has been freed of the entanglement, don’t try to throw it into the air. Quite often the confused critter will come crashing right back down on the boat’s deck, or sometimes it may fly into a fishing rod, a net, or anything else sticking up above deck level. Instead, hold it over the side of the boat and let go of one end of the towel or rag. Holding it as far away as possible give it a little shake, and as it comes un-done the bird will fall out and into the water – and you can get back to trying to catch something that does actually taste good.