When practicing catch and release fishing it’s important to note that different species require different handling practices. Compared to many other game fish, trout are more fragile. Because of this, handling these fish requires a slightly different approach. These are 7 techniques to ensure your catches return safely to their feeding lanes.
1) Wet Your Hands
Wetting your hands before handling the fish is extremely important. Since trout have a protective slime coating that can be whipped off with dry hands, this is an integral step before touching a trout.
2) Use Barbless Hooks
It is best to use barbless hooks because it makes for easier unhooking— decreasing the handling time and physical injury to the fish.
3) Keep Your Hands Out of the Mouth and Gills
Do NOT put your fingers in the fish’s mouth or gills. While it’s fine to lip some species of fish like bass, it is best to keep your fingers out of a trout’s mouth because it puts unnecessary stress on the fish, and because they have small teeth. Keep those hands on the body of the fish!
4) No Squeezing
Since trout have that slimy coating, they can be difficult to handle. Rather than squeezing the fish in order to get control of it, slide your hand underneath the fish and handle it by cradling it. This is something you’ll get better at with time.
5) Keep Them Wet
Between the time the fish is taken out of the water, and the time when the fish is released, the fish should be wet during the entire process. If you can, it is best to keep the fish in the water the entire time. But, if you need to take the fish out for a quick picture, make sure to keep it quick! For more information on this check out Keep Fish Wet.
6) Don’t Play the Fish
Fighting a fish can be a lot of fun, but prolonging the fight adds unnecessary stress on the fish. To help avoid this, we can use strong tippet, and try to decrease the amount of time it takes to get the fish to the net.
7) Use Fish Friendly Nets
Netting the fish is super important for keeping the fish in the water during the handling process, but some nets are better for the fish than others. It’s best to use a net with a rubber basket rather than a net with rope or other abrasive materials. Similar to wetting your hands before handling a fish, using a rubber net removes less of the fish’s protective slime, resulting in healthier released fish.
This is a shortlist of some of the most important trout handling practices. If you have others that should be included on this list let us know in the comment section below. As anglers, we are always striving to improve our negative impact on fisheries and the greater world!
Stay tuned for more installments of “Fishing Etiquette.”