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    Early Season Reminder: Fish Handling Tips by Cat Toy

    Early Season Reminder:  Fish Handling Tips by Cat Toy

    Trout are a very elegant and stunning fish that many anglers are fond of.  They are a very delicate fish that require conscientiousness and careful handling.  Poor handling of trout or being unaware can result in casualties of healthy fish. Their chance of surviving after being released is determined by how we handle and take care for them.  Here are some key recommendations to remember the next time you are on the river to increase their chances for survival. 

    The excitement of hooking a trout when your line goes tight, the strenuous headshakes, the flash of colors and size when the trout breaks through the water surface into the air!  These moments are important to be mindful of how long to toil a fish before a swoop in the net.  The quicker you can get the fish in, the better chance for survival.  Avoid playing the fish to the point of exhaustion.  


    Prolonged fights increase the stress levels on the fish with a less chance of survival particularly when water temperatures are high.  Carry a thermometer and check water temperatures during those hot summer days and low flows.  Water temperatures headed towards 68 degrees Fahrenheit and above are not optimal conditions to fish.


    Rubber basket nets are choice compared to the old-fashion string nets in protecting the fish from disease and bacteria.  Removing the protective mucous layers places the trout into susceptibility in decline of health. Always wet hands first before handling trout.  Be conscientious not to squeeze the trout.  Squeezing too hard can cause trauma to internal organs and possibly result in death after release.  Never place fingers in the gills or hold the trout by the lip.  Fingers in gills can insult the trout’s breathing structures as well as holding by the lip can injure or break its jaw.


    Keep the fish wet!  Fish breathe through their gills in moving water.  Prolonged exposure out of water is oppressing or suffocating the fish.  Keeping the trout in the water maintains its capability to still breathe.  Once the fish is in the net, keep the basket submerged underwater while reaching down to unhook the fish.  


    Always carry a pair of hemostats for use of unhooking the trout.  Try to unhook the fish when it is in a more relaxed state and cradle the underbelly of the fish.  Remember to not squeeze the fish for a better grip in unhooking.  Once your hemostat has a good grip on the hook, gently reverse the curve of the hook out of the fish.  Thrashing while unhooking can cause injuries, and bleeding to the face and mouth of the fish. Often, I’ve caught many trout already missing one or both maxillary bone structures.  This can be prevented by simply being patient in the removal of the hook.


    Fishing barbless causes less physical trauma and removal is effortless.  Again, with a grip on the hook with your hemostats, reverse the curve of the hook out of the fish.  Bonus with barbless hooks is that it is very easy to unhook from your clothing and anything else you may accidentally get hooked into. 


    Many anglers marvel over a big catch which means taking a photo to share with friends.  It is easy to figure the experience of an angler by how he or she holds a trout.  First and foremost, avoid placing a trout on the dirt, rocks, and sticks on the river banks.  This is harmful causing damage to their outer protective slime as well as dirt sediment in their eyes and gills.  No fingers in those delicate gills. With taking photos, be hasty with the fish out of water.  Trout calm down by cradling them and supporting their weight.  Cradle underneath just behind the head and at the wrist of the tail.  Keep the trout in the water, lift up very briefly out of the water for the picture shot.  Always use two hand with large trout.  Your hand cradling just behind the head is right where the heart and many other essential organs are located.  So, don’t crush the heart as a fish may soon swim away and die shortly thereafter.


    As always with release, ensure the fish are properly recovered before freed back into the water.  Release the trout facing it upstream and when the fish has responded with a sure recovery.  With being knowledgeable of how to handle trout, we can continue to savour our beautiful fisheries.  See you on the river!


    Blog written by Mystic Outdoors Ambassador Cat Toy (@cattoyflyfishing)