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Handling fresh water fish

What to Do:

Looking after the trout you catch begins with your equipment.

  • Use the heaviest line you can get away with.  Too light a line means you will have to fight the fish for longer and that takes a toll – an exhausted fish has much less chance of surviving.

  •  Use a single hook and consider trying barbless hooks.

  •  Aim to land your fish quickly.  Modern reels have great drags, so make the most of these and the rod’s leverage to get the trout close enough to net.

  •  Use a net to land your fish, preferably a knotless one. 

  •  Keep the trout in the net and in the water while releasing it.

  •  Unhook the fish gently, preferably with long nosed pliers.

  •  Work quickly and avoid touching the fish at all.

  •  If you want a photo, make it quick and get the fish back into the water without delay.

  •  Wet and cool your hands before handling the fish and consider using gloves.

  •  Ideally, take the photo of the fish still in the water.

  •  If you have to hold the fish, do it gently with one hand around the tail and the other carefully  cradling the fish.

  •  Keep your hands, hooks and anything else away from the trout’s gills.

 What Not to Do:

  • Don’t drag the fish onto shore and leave it flapping around on hot rocks, beating itself up on the unforgiving shore.  This is a death sentence.

  •  The same goes for boat anglers – a hot deck will kill a trout.

  •  Don’t touch the trout’s gills.  If your fish is bleeding from the gills, kill it as studies have shown that they won’t survive to see another dawn.

  •  Don’t squeeze the fish, especially around its belly.

  •  Don’t keep the trout out of water any longer than necessary.  Remember, fish don’t breathe any better in air than we do underwater.

  •  Don’t use treble hooks, especially the double sets found on some lures.  Replace them with a single hook which works just as well and makes it much easier to release fish.

  •  Don’t bring up fish from deep water too quickly when lake fishing from boats.

To Keep or Release:

Trout make good eating so if you are keeping them for the table, make the decision and kill them quickly.  A sharp blow to the head with a rock or priest does the trick nicely or iki them.  Finish it off with a trip to the smoker, a squeeze of lemon and a slice of bread – you don’t have to apologise for selectively taking fish for the table.

If you are going to release the trout, handle it gently and ideally keep it in the water while you gently unhook it. Make sure it is upright and hold it into the current so the water can flow over its gills.  Once the fish has recovered, it will kick out of your hands and swim away.