The importance of proper fish handling can not be over-stated. How we treat our fish and remove the hooks can be the difference between life and death in some cases. Any angler targeting trout must be familiar with how to safely release a fish once caught.
Proper fish handling includes:
- Do not fight the fish for longer than necessary, especially if stream temperatures are high
- Avoid over-handling of the fish; keep the fish wet whenever possible and wet your hands before touching any fish
- Avoid damaging any organs; do not touch the gills/gill plate, do not squeeze fish, and do not hold fish by the jaw
- Allow fish to recover energy before releasing it by facing it into the current and letting it swim away when ready
Having pinched barbs and carrying pliers/forceps will greatly aid you in getting the hook out of the fishes mouth quickly. If you are struggling to get hook out, continually let the fish recover in cool water between attempts, and cut your line if hook cannot be removed without excessive stress to fish.
Proper fish handling is particularly important when stream temperatures are warmer than normal, from extreme heat, drought, or low water levels, all of which will warm water and decrease dissolved oxygen. In many cases, a fish may be handled poorly and swim away, seemingly fine after being released; however, many of these fish will die after being released, due to damaged organs, loss of blood, or from not being able to recover their oxygen levels. During times of heat and high water temps, all fish need to be thoroughly revived in the coldest, fastest moving water before being released. Or even better, avoid fishing at all.
Help do your part for our trout and practice proper fish handling techniques!