Catch-and-release trout fishing is a beautiful practice to preserve such a wonderful natural resource, especially when it comes to native and wild trout.
There are many factors that need to be taken into account so it is done properly and the fish can return back to its normal feeding position in the stream.
When it comes to trout fishing, you don’t want to fish when the water temperature is 70 degrees or above. The warmer water holds less dissolved oxygen and will be an issue when playing the fish.
Try not to totally exhaust the fish as you bring it to your net. Lactic acid is building up the longer it takes to bring the fish in. When landing the fish, the newer rubber nets are less abrasive to the fish and are recommended.
It also is a good practice to use a single barbless hook and make sure to carefully remove the hook because, if a fish bleeds upon hook removal, then the chances of that fish surviving are very poor.
Using forceps can help to remove the hook. Treble hooks are more likely to rip up a trout’s mouth.
Bait fishing is bad when the fish swallows the hook and bait. It is a death sentence to try to remove a swallowed hook which almost always leads to a bleeding trout. Fly-fishing is a nice way to go because you almost never have to deal with a swallowed hook.
Make sure you wet your hands before touching the fish. Dry hands remove the protective coating on the fish's skin and can lead to skin infections.
If you are going to take a picture, keep the fish in the net while submerged in the water as you get your camera ready. I keep my phone in the front pouch of my waders for easy, quick access. Taking a pic of the fish in the net is a fast and easy way to get a photo and quickly return the fish to moving water.
If you pick up the fish, never stick your fingers in its gills. The gills are delicate and essential for the fish to breath underwater.
Never pick up a trout by the lip like you do with a bass. The trout’s mouth is delicate and can be damaged. Never pick up the fish and tightly squeeze its internal organs. Gently pick up the fish by cupping your hand under its belly.
If someone else is taking the pic then your second hand can hold the fish in front of its tail. Take several quick pics in rapid succession and release the fish into the water, or if taking another pic, lower the fish into your net in the water.
Let it get a chance to revive with its head facing upstream with the water flowing over the gills. Assess the fish. If it had enough, then quickly return it to the water. Don’t take any pics of a fish on dry ground. The ground damages the fish’s skin and the protective coating on the skin.
Keep the fish wet is rule No. 1, so always keep it near water. Also never put the fish on ice or snow because it can freeze the gills.
Do not revive a fish by pushing it forward and backward in the water. This can damage the gills and drown the fish. Keep the fish upright with its head facing upstream in flowing current.
Never stun a fish by throwing it back into the water, always gently and carefully release it in the water. Make sure it stays in flowing oxygenated water as it recovers.
Soon it will dart away to deeper water and maybe you will get lucky and catch the same beautiful fish again on another day.
Tight lines and good luck!
About the columnist: Dr. Joseph Simons is the vice president of the Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association and a board director for Trout Unlimited via the Stanley Cooper Chapter. He enjoys traveling throughout the watershed in pursuit of native trout, sharing his adventures via photo essays on social media.
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