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Fish Bones 01-24-2008 10:57 PM

Is it bad to not practice catch & release?
Catch and release versus catch and keep has been a sensitive topic for many years. Fly fishers continue to struggle with this dilemma today.

When it comes to trout fishing, I practice C.P.R. (Catch Photograph and Release). I release every trout that I catch. One of the main reasons that I fly fish is for the joy and relaxation of the sport. So, I really don’t want to have to worry about cleaning a mess of fish during or after my day of fishing enjoyment.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not a tree or fish hugger. I am definitely not against keeping fish. I do believe that a certain amount of fish must be harvested in order to maintain a healthy fish population. So, catch and keep is an important part of the promotion and preservation of sport fishing throughout the world. I just feel that there are enough catch and keep folks that will make up for all the fish that I catch and release.

I've seen anglers gill grab a trout for a photo and then pitch it back into the water. So we should not assume that all folks who release fish are doing it properly. The following is a good set of guidelines to safely release fish... especially trout. Always use the heaviest leader and tippet possible for particular species of fish so that you can land it quickly. The longer you fight a fish the more lactic acid builds up. Then the more exhausted the fish becomes. Then the chances of survival decrease for the fish. Playing a fish for a long time in warm water also increases its chance of dying.

Its important to use barbless hooks. One option is to pinch the barb down with pliers. If the fly hook gets lodged deep into the mouth of the fish try to back the hook out the same way it went in. A long hemostat is the ideal tool for this. You should never pull on the line when the hook is lodged deep in the trout’s gullet. At this point, you will give the fish its greatest chance for survival by cutting the line and returning it to the water as quickly as possible. The longer a fish is out of water the less its chances of survival becomes.

It’s a good idea to not net your fish unless it’s the only way to control it. If you must use a net then use a soft mesh net made specifically for catch and release. You must wet your hands before ever handling a trout. Dry hands or gloves will remove the trout’s mucous coating. This protective layer helps to prevent infection and disease.

If possible, do not take the trout out of the water. If you must photograph the fish, do not remove it from the water until your buddy is ready to take the shot. When he’s ready, be quick and gentle. Do not squeeze the trout or hold it near its eyes or gills.

After the catch, it’s important to properly revive the fish before it’s released. To correctly revive a trout, hold it under the belly with one hand and by the tail with the other. Keep the trout in an upright and submerged position. There are currently differences in opinions among the fly fishing experts about whether or not it’s a good idea to move the fish back and forth when attempting to revive. If you’re in a river or stream is probably best to just hold the fish facing the current. Be patient and give the trout plenty of time to recover and easily swim away on its own. Watch the released fish for as long as you can in order to insure its safe release.

So no... its not bad to catch and keep... and if your gonna catch and release, make sure you do it right.

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