Catch & Release Handling Techniques – Ways to Improve Survival

It may be time to review how we handle  our Catch & Release (CnR) techniques.

We cast a fly and once in a while catch a beautiful trout. Our passion for the sport of fly fishing has finally been rewarded. We use barbless hooks, strong leaders and fight fish with vigilance to bring them into a rubber-meshed landing net as quickly as possible. Quick, where is my camera, I’ll keep the fish in the net and in the water until I get organized for the shot. Finally the photo is taken and the fish is released.

After the normal run of self congratulation we need to ask ourselves just how long was that fish out of water and equally important out of running water where the fish can replenish its oxygen supply. Just how many of these fish swim away to die at the bottom of the river? More than most of us would believe!

A 2016 publication by the Wild Steelhead Coalition suggests that although good Catch-and-Release (CnR) techniques do reduce fish mortality and reproductive performance, there is a need to pay close attention to prolonged air exposure. The data illustrated that:

Lethal & Reproductive Loss from Air Exposure for Rainbow Trout  can be as high as 38% mortality when exposed to air for 30 seconds and 72% for 60 seconds.

Although mortality would be lower with flies and good CnR handing techniques. It is important to reduce air exposure to a minimum.

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