Best Change for Survival
Trout should be handled and released in a way that affords them the best chance for survival.
No matter the species (brown, brook, rainbow, golden or cutthroat), the trout is one of the most fragile of all the freshwater fishes.
A trout’s needs and requirements for continued survival are some of the most demanding of any freshwater game fish and both it and its underwater habitat should be treated with respect.
Like any other fish, trout possess a “slime” coating that protects them from acquiring disease and infection.
Once the slime coating has been compromised, the trout is susceptible to invasion from a host of life-threatening illnesses and potentially deadly injuries.
Don’t Be a Catch and Release Killer
Here is a list of the top four immediate needs for optimum care of any trout:
- Help protect the trout’s slime coating by not handling the fish at all, if possible. If handling is necessary for whatever reason, it should only be done after completely wetting your hands.
- Handling should be kept to an absolute minimum.
- Please, don’t grasp the trout with a towel.
- And never drag a fish up on the shore. This is particularly important in alkaline lakes where a heavy coating of slime is necessary to protect the fish.
Get the trout to hand as soon as possible. Overplaying a trout causes a potentially catastrophic build-up of lactic acid in the muscle tissues.
Lactic acid accumulation prevents the fish from swimming normally, which makes it a target for predators.
Keeping a trout out of the water is like keeping a human under water; breathing is impossible. The less time a trout stays out of the water, the better its chances for post-release survival.
Lactic acid increases as a fish is deprived of oxygen when it is taken out of the water. Extreme levels of lactic acid will cause paralysis. So limit the time that a fish is out of water to a maximum of 20 seconds or so.
Once the hook is removed from the trout’s lip, gently cradle the trout underwater facing upstream.
Allow the trout a few moments to collect its’ thoughts, lose some lactic acid, and regain equilibrium.
Once the trout has recovered, it will swim away from you faster than a car thief running from the cops.