Wildwood Outfitters Blog and Fishing Report
There's nothing wrong with periodically keeping a few caught trout for dinner. In fact, there are some studies out there to suggest a slight culling of the trout herd can be beneficial in certain waterways. If instead you choose to release the trout you catch, as many anglers do, there are a few steps to follow to ensure that the #letemgoletemgrow plastered on Instagram is more than just a catchy tagline to accompany your fish pic!
1.) Rubber Nets
Some of my earliest days of steelhead fishing involved an old nylon net from Gander Mountain. There were few things more frustrating than catching a nice fish then spending the next 15 minutes trying to get the flies out of the net webbing. Not only was I causing myself plenty of grief and time, but I was also injuring the fish. Those old school nets can do some serious damage to a fish's gills, so if you're serious about catch and release fishing, consider a rubber net. Fishpond makes some of the best on the market that not only save you the hassle of flies buried in snarls of nylon, but also keep the fish much safer!
2.) Water is the Fish's Friend
Fish live in water. Fish can't breath out of the water. Fish need to stay in the water if we want them to survive. That seems obvious enough, but it's difficult to remember sometimes when you catch a nice fish and want that picture to post on Facebook. To help ensure the fish's survival, keep it wet as long as you can. Have your phone or camera ready before lifting the fish out of your net and always have your hands wet before fish handling!
3.) Smart Tippet Choices
Streams in Pennsylvania get extremely low and clear during the dog days of summer, but no matter how technical the fishing gets I refuse to fish tippet lighter than 6X. Sure, that means some fish will spook on account of line that is too visible in the water but it also ensure quick landings of trout that are hooked. Many a fish are played too long because the angler is using tippet that is too light. The longer the fight with a fish goes, the higher the mortality rate, so use thicker line and sacrifice some hookups to increase the survival of those you do catch!
4.) Crimp the Barbs (Can Also Help You!!)
Crimping your hook barb down is a terrific way to protect the fish! If you're catch and release fishing, who cares if the fish gets off before you get it all the way to your net? The long distance release (LDR, as we call it) is better for the fish and happens fairly often when your barbs are crimped down. Any angler who has ever buried a fly into his/her hand or arm can also attest to the merits of fishing a barbless fly.
5.)Know how to Hold the Fish
Some of the pictures you see of anglers holding fish are cringe-worthy. If catch and release is the goal, trout should never ever, not ever, not even once, and for no reason be held up by their gills. The gills are essentially a trout's lungs and you wouldn't want someone shaking hands with you by sticking their fingers in your lungs and yanking you around. Cradle the fish gently in your wet hand (an equally important thing to do) and lift it just far enough out of the water to get your picture before gently releasing it. These are sensitive creatures, so handle with care!