Proper Handling of Trout _ Davy Wotton


Hold brown trout at the wrist in front of the tail and cradle the body in your other hand


Davy Wotton answers the question of how to handle trout properly, and in particular during winter temperatures


The simple answer to this question is this, with as little stress as possible.

Assuming you are using barbless hooks the most common reason for mortality is due to how fish are handled  be that with a net or hands that causes loss of the protective membrane that is the trout’s answer to ward of bacterial infections.
Once a bacterial infection takes hold its more or less a death sentence. If at all possible avoid use of a net.
Subjecting a fish to excessive time out of the water, worse when temperatures are high and low.
The membranes in a trout’s gill are very delicate they are also the means that allows for oxygen to transmit to the blood and in the case of trout they do not have that much to start with.

Its as simple as this. If your rod guides are freezing then likewise water that covers the fish and its gills can do same in a very short period of time.
Extreme heat likewise can be the cause of mortality. That being the case the fish needs to be returned to the water as quickly as possible.And that also means not allowing fish to lay on boat decks, rocks or any other substrate that is subject to extreme temperature regardless if they are in a net.

If you are looking for a picture keep the trout in the water in the net until you have the camera ready to go. A good idea here is to pre focus with the fisherman before he holds the trout as that will reduce considerable time having to hold the fish out of the water. Trauma such as dropping fish on rocks, boat decks is a definite no, no.
In the case of wade fishing aim to keep the fish over water while the pics are taken.
In the case of boat, go to the nearest shore. Unless you are confident that the fisherman knows how to hold the fish without dropping it. You would be surprised how many do not.

In the case of Brown trout they have a pretty solid wrist at the tail junction and that will allow for a positive hold while the fish is cradled in the other hand. Larger Bows also have a wrist but its not as good as brown trout where the angle of the tail from the body is much stronger in the case of bows it is ore likely to fold.
Either way a good positive tail hold is the way to go.

Likewise holding a trout by placing the hands inside the gills is a death sentence a definite no, no. Nets and gloves, always a point of discussion. Fact is both can contribute to loss of protective membrane from the trout’s body. Granted there are some nets better than others. The deal is aim to release the fish while it is in the net in the water or as little time as possible if you have to bring the fish out of the water.

The more a trout thrashes in the net then the greater the loss. Boga grips,  those l would never use for trout, may be for toothy saltwater species. Its not a ideal way to hold a trout for a picture either. A trout’s vertebra can be seriously damaged by weight as it is held uppermost  by the head and as often seen in photos the upward bent U shape angle of the trout’s body. Release of fish.

Many larger fish which have been subject to picture time when released will subsequently die.
So here are a couple of considerations.
Never release a trout into fast flowing water that will not allow for the fish to recover before it gains it ability to swim against and maintain its upright position. Often as not if you do the fish will be washed downstream and never be able to regain its ability to maintain position.
If you are boat fishing then run to shore and allow the fish to recover before you leave it.
There are times of the year when both water temperature and lower levels of DO will demand you spend more time with the fish.
Never also assume that moving the fish back and forth you are doing it a favor as you are not. Water does not pass through the gills in reverse. Simply hold the fish against the water flow and let the trout’s natural bodily functions allow it to recover. 

I was asked recently why trout when handled in hatcheries or shocking surveys are less likely to die.


The main answer is this. They are not subject to being played out and stressed as fish we catch on rod and line are. In most cases these fish are returned back to the water with very low stress. 
I have pretty much covered the main issues here, once again the simple answer is, with as little stress as possible.

Davy Wotton. 

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