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Trout Handling Best Practices

With more anglers comes increased fishing pressure in North America. As catch and release anglers, the most important thing we can do is ensure we're releasing a healthy fish back into the population. These tips are more important now than ever.

Cuttthroat trout being release into river in Alberta, Canada.

Water Temperature:

Trout (and most fish species) are cold blooded, this means water temperature directly impacts the internal temperature of the fish. While this can become a very complicated and scientific topic, the main point is: warmer water = higher mortality rate of fish when released. Temperature tolerance changes slightly based on trout species, but here is a general guide:

Safe temperature chart for trout fishing. Used to help in conversation and catch and release fishing during hot summers.

Fish Handling Tips:

1) Keep the fish wet.

2) Wet your hand before handling the fish – this ensures you're not removing too much of the fish's protective slime. Some research also indicates that the use of tailing and cold weather gloves can be harmful to the fish.

3) Use a net – ideally one with rubberized netting (instead of plain rope). Using a net helps shorten the period of time that you are fighting and stressing the fish.

4) Use a single barbless hook, this ensures a quicker release.

5) Never place the fish down on a hard surface -- rocks, shore, boat decks etc.

6) If you want to take a picture of the fish, think about these tips:

  • Take the picture of the fish while the net is still under the water. You will notice on most of Broken Tippet’s fish pictures, the fish are either completely or partially submerged.

  • You can take images of fish underwater with equipment such as GoPros and other waterproof lenses / cases.

  • If want to get the classic fish shot - make it quick, wet the fish, pull it out of the water for a fast photo and release the fish immediately after. Keep air exposure to 5 seconds, maximum. Ensure this only occurs within the safe temperature zone, pictured above.

Bull trout catch and release from fishing net in British Columbia.

6) Use heavier tippet, and rod/lines - as water temperatures start to increase and near the danger zone, use a heavier tippet. This will help you fight the fish quicker -- get it in, and get it back out.

7) If water temperatures are too warm - find cooler water by either going to higher elevations, spring creeks, switch to stillwater or fish earlier in morning. If you can’t find cooler water, spend the day fly tying! A great way to find new waters to fish is by using a resource such as Backroad Mapbooks

A great resource to refer to is


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