If you catch and release, release ’em right

I’m on my way home from the Outdoor Writers Association of America conference today, so I’m not home to record new shows. Instead, today’s show is one that won first place in the Fishing category at the conference.

Each year, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department sends out a reminder of the right way to release fish when you turn them back into the water. Al Langston of the Game and Fish recently sent out that reminder, so I thought I’d pass it along to you.

When the water gets warm this time of year, cold-water fish like trout are especially fragile. They use most of the energy they take in from the critters they eat to keep themselves cool, and catching them can sap most of their reserves. The best advice from the fisheries biologists is to do your fishing early in the morning or late in the evening, when the water temperatures are cooler. But even then, you should do what you can to keep from overtaxing the trout you catch.

Mike Snigg, the Laramie region fisheries supervisor, says if you’re planning to release the fish you catch, try to land them as quickly as possible. The longer you play a fish, the more you’ll tire it out and use up its energy. Snigg suggests using heavier line or tippets so you don’t have to worry as much about the fish breaking your line while you’re hauling it in.

Once you get the fish to the bank, handle it carefully. Don’t squeeze it, and keep your fingers away from the gills. Landing nets can help you get the fish back in the water quicker, especially if they’re the mesh kind, rather than nets with widely spaced holes. The less there is to hang up on, the better.

Using barbless hooks is a good idea, too, because you can get the fish off with less tugging and yanking.

After you get the fish off the hook, hold it gently in an upright position facing upstream, and move it back and forth to get the water running through the gills. Then simply let the fish swim out of your hands.