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Trout Handling - C.P.R (Catch, Photograph, & Release)

- Rick Schroeder

Trout are slippery! Especially brook trout. They have protective slime all over their bodies which helps protect them from infectious diseases. If this slime is removed from the trout's skin, they may not be able to fight off infectious diseases and could die.

Rick brown trout from Taylor River


I'd like to give you some tips on how to release trout to help protect the fishing resources that we have.

So, lets start with the flies, lures, or bait hooks that you may be using while fishing. If you plan on only catch and release you should use barbless hooks or pinch down the barbs on your hooks before you even start fishing. Simply doing this will limit the amount of lip damage to the fish and will be easier to remove the hook from the fish once landed. If you are not practicing 100% catch and release you may not want to pinch down the barbs on your hooks, which is still fine if within the regulations of the water you are fishing. When fishing with barbed hooks, have a pair of long nosed pliers with you. This aids in quickly removing hooks, lessoning lip damage and helps to remove deeper hooks for those fish that you want to release. If the fish has swallowed the hook do not try to remove it from trout you want to release, simply cut the line and the hook will break down naturally in the stomach of the fish. 

When you're reeling in the fish, be careful not to drag it Brown Trout in a net up on to the shore. It is better to use a net keeping the fish in the water. Using a net with either arubber basket or small mesh helps protect the fish from damage and will protect the slime coat of the fish. It's best to remove the hook from the fish while it's in the water, or at least pull just the head out of the water. Letting a trout flop around on the ground, deck, boat, etc. can cause harm to it's protective slime. Get the hook out as fast as possible while handling the trout as little as you can if you are releasing the fish. One thing you want to try to avoid is the "death grip" holding the fish too tightly in one hand and trying to remove the hook with the other. This can not only remove the slime coat, but can also damage the internal organs of the fish by breaking the delicate bones. If the trout is large and you can remove the hook while keeping the trout's head underwater, that's even better.


You can always capture the moment with a photograph even if your intention is to release the fish. Take the proper precautions when handling your catch to minimize the amount of slime that is removed; Before picking up the fish wet your hands, take your photo as quick as possible, hold the fish by the tail and belly to help minimize damage to it, and try not to keep the fish out of water longer then you can hold your own breath. 

When fishing by yourself you can still take pictures of your catch. Ideally have your camera set up on a tripod ready for your picture with timer set. Push the shutter button and hold your fish up for the camera. If you do not carry a tripod with you, a rock or a log will also work for taking a picture. If there is nothing you can use as a tripod or your camera does not have a timer, photograph the fish in your net. Try not to put the fish on the ground, if there is no other option there are a few thing that may help protect the slime coat of the fish while photographing the fish on the ground. Choose wet grass or a soft wet surface instead of dry ground or rocks, if you are in a boat wet a towel and lay the fish on the towel and photograph it quickly. 

Releasing a large rainbow troutWhen releasing the fish back into the water, keep in mind that it may be tired from the fight and may need a bit of help to regain it's strength so that it can swim off again. You can help out by lowering the trout's head in the water and moving it back and forth to force water through it's gills. Hold the fish by the tail until it shows signs of being able to swim away by itself. Don't let the fish go if it's too tired to swim away. Also avoid releasing trout in fast moving water, the fish may appear to swim off but might not be able to fight the current because of the battle he just had with you.

Practicing catch and release helps protect and preserve fishing resources. As anglers, we need to do our part by not causing the fish undue harm.