CHEYENNE – Catch and release has been a popular fishing practice for many years – and is especially popular among those who enjoy fly fishing for trout.
As the summer fishing season progresses waters in streams and lakes naturally start warming which increases the importance of following fish-handling steps to help improve survival of fish that are to be released. Even though this is a good year for stream flows, waters are lower and warmer than they were a month ago and warmer water can place extra stress on fish.
Fish that are to be released should be played and landed as rapidly as possible to reduce exhaustion stress. This means that anglers may wish to choose heavier tippet or leader sections to enable to play the fish more quickly and get it back in the water in a timely manner.
Careful handling of the fish can also reduce mortality. Fish should not be squeezed and anglers should take care to keep their fingers away from the gills. A landing net is helpful in handling a fish and facilitates getting the hook out quickly. Anglers may also consider using barbless hooks as the hook is much easier to remove which minimizes the handling of the fish and the time the fish is out of the water. Regular hooks can be made barbless by flattening the barb with a pair of pliers.
Once the fish is caught it can be revived by holding it gently in an upright position facing upstream in fairly calm water. Move the fish slowly back and forth to get water moving though the gills. The fish can then be released in quiet water after it has regained its strength and is able to swim from your grip.
Anglers fishing in a water where bait fishing is allowed, and plan on releasing their fish, may consider using artificial flies or lures as survival of released fish is five to ten times greater using artificials as opposed to natural bait.
Information on procedure for releasing fish alive is also found on page 13 of the fishing regulations available at WGFD license agents or online at wgfd.wyo.gov.