How to Properly Handle a Trout

September 5, 2019

Catch and release is more common when enjoying trout fishing in Fraser, CO. This arises mainly due to conservation efforts, as habitat destruction and the number of anglers threatens to significantly reduce trout numbers. However, in order to be part of this effort, and not part of the problem, it is important to know how to correctly handle a trout. Here are five tips on catch and release:

  • Use single barbless hooks: Barbed hooks are designed to make escape difficult for fish, but they also cause significant injury if you intend to catch and release rather than catch and have a fish fry. If you anticipate releasing most of the fish you catch, use the barbless option. You may prefer these hooks anyway, as they are much easier to remove.
  • Use a net: You do not want to touch a fish unless necessary, as trout are more fragile than they appear. Trout are covered with a protective slime that can be compromised by salts within human skin. Use a net to first bring in the fish when it is reeled close enough to you. If you wish to handle the fish or take a picture, wet your hands first. You also want to keep the net wet during your fishing escapade so it doesn’t reduce a trout’s protective barrier.
  • Keep the fish in water: When you bring a fish out into the air, it is the equivalent of a human being dunked in water. Breathlessness reduces fish strength as much as it does for us. Keep the fish in the water whenever possible—a trout should be out for no more than five seconds if you want a photo. If you have a point of reference, like a ruler, consider taking a picture of the trout next to that reference rather than handling it out of water more than necessary. Even a can of soda makes a good point of reference when trout fishing.
  • Cradle, do not squeeze: Unlike bass, trout should not be held up by the lip. Their jaws are not as strong, and you risk injuring them. Also, do not squeeze them. We know they are slippery, but that may damage their heart and lungs. Instead, cradle the trout around the pectoral fins. Larger fish can rupture their air bladder if dropped, so kneel as close to the water as possible. Do not put your fingers into the gills, and if the hook is especially stuck, place the fish in water between attempts.
  • Release considerately: Fish out of water feel lightheaded. Before letting them loose, give them time to take in the water and get oxygen to their brains. Hold at the belly and move the tail side to side. Face the fish toward a slow current and when it seems livelier, let it loose into the water. Fish may go to the bottom and sit for a while, and that is normal. Move the tail side to side again, and when the fish is ready, it will swim away from you.

The team at Winter Park Flyfisher is ready to take you trout fishing in Fraser, CO this season. Call us today to schedule a guided fishing trip.

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