In many places throughout Colorado, fishing popular tailwaters and freestones is the norm. And so is catch and release fishing. There are certainly times and places for harvesting fish. Everyone should experience a fresh brook trout over a campfire. But on our state’s heavily pressured waters – which even includes many backcountry waters these days – catch and release practices are encouraged.
What does it look like to catch and release fish safely? Check out this video with a few helpful reminders from our own Davis James and from our friends at keepfishwet.org:
So next time your out on the water, remember these quick tips…
First, carry a landing net. Many new anglers hold off on this piece of equipment, but it really should be a part of your first gear purchase. Nets also make a great gift for any new angler! Carrying a net will allow you to unhook and release the fish with the least amount of stress. Avoid dragging the fish onto rocks, dirt or gravel. As Sascha mentions in the video, a net with a rubberized bag will cause the least amount of slime loss and fin fraying.
Next, leave the bag of the net (along with the fish) in the water while you set down your rod and remove the hook. Always carry a set of forceps or pliers for quick hook removal. From there, you can quickly lift the fish from the net – even snap a quick photo – and immediately place it back in the water. In this way, the fish doesn’t spend any more time than necessary out of the water.
Finally, remember to let the fish recover until it can swim away under its own power. When doing so, hold it in an oxygenated current – not too fast but not stagnant water – facing upstream. Water is designed to travel across a fish’s gills in only one direction. Don’t pull the fish back and forth in an attempt to move more water across the gills. Forcing water backwards through the gills can cause more harm than good.
We are aware that as fly anglers, we’re always at risk of sounding like catch and release snobs. But the reality is, that as our state and the demand for outdoor recreation grows, we must be aware of our impact and the risks of loving our waters to death.
When we fish a popular stretch of water, we will be one of thousands to visit annually. Even some remote waters are now seeing visitor numbers in the thousands each year. In order to sustain these resources and for the enjoyment of anglers who will follow, we do our best to quickly and safely release fish.
Have further questions or need help? Don’t hesitate to reach out! We’re here at the fly shop in Littleton during normal business hours. And you can reach us at 303-794-1104. Plus, we continue to offer free shipping or free curbside pickup on all phone and online orders.