Catch and Release: How To Properly Handle Your Trout
Fly fishing in the fall is one of our favorite activities. The rivers quiet down with the end of most rafting seasons, leaving the waters even more quiet and tranquil, perfect for the avid fly fisherman to hit the water and get that trophy fish. But, as nature lovers we are always trying to strike that perfect balance between conservation and recreation. So let’s talk about how to spend an awesome day fishing, without harming the fish. Sounds oxymoronic, but if you’re careful and paying attention, there’s no reason that you can fish without doing harm.
Browns spawn in the fall, so be extra careful when you handle them
One thing to remember when booking your fall fishing trips is that brown trout spawn in the fall, unlike the rainbow and cutthroats that spawn during the spring. Even if you normally practice catch and release you could still be unconsciously harming the trout by the way that you handle them out of the water. And in when the browns are spawning, they are ultra sensitive to the touch and should be handle with kid gloves and utmost care.
In order to “do no harm” when fishing in the fall, make sure you are not committing one of these fatal mistakes when handling the trout to get that perfect picture with your trophy fish.
Once you hook that trout, keep the little lady in the water as you scoop it up with your net. The poor thing has already exhausted itself trying to fight your hook, don’t stress it out even more by letting it hang out of the water, wiggling and bouncing around in the air.
When you go to handle the fish to set up the perfect photo, make sure that your hands are wet. This may seem silly because you are surrounded by water, but a dry hand will wipe off the protective slimy coat of the trout causing more harm than good.
But now comes the really tricky part, and the part that many fly fishermen (and women), especially first timers, don’t consider – holding the fish for the photo. Most people will intuitively grip the fish right under the chin in front of the pectoral fins while holding on to the tail, hold up the fish and smile. It’s an instinctual way to hold the fish because like we just mentioned, it is slippery and the fish is most likely still trying to fight it’s capture.
For the sake of the fish, hold the trout gently around it’s belly, behind the pectoral fins. With the other hand holding the tail, gently balance the fish in your hands and raise it up to get that Kodak moment. Most people don’t realize the anatomy of the trout, and when they grip the fish around the neck, they are actually squeezing and damaging vital organs. This is not damage that you can see, so you probably didn’t even notice that you were releasing an injured – sometimes fatally injured – trout back into the water.
Catching and releasing and protecting the well being of the trout is one way that we can continue to enjoy world class fishing here in Colorado. The more we can educate people on safety, conservation and preservation the better. Knowing that you are doing no harm is the best way to ensure a fun trip with a clean conscience.
Now, sit back, relax and wait for the fish to bite.