BULL SHOALS and Norfork tailwaters have the luxury of plenty of cold trout temperature water to counter Southern summer heat.
But temperatures in the 80s and above mean some adjustments in catch and release practices to ensure trout survive.
Trout fisheries across the West are facing “hoot owl” closures or even total bans on fishing in response to high temperatures and low flows. The Keep Fish Wet organization has launched the “No Fish Dry July” campaign aims to encourage anglers to not take any photos of fish for the entire month. High water temperatures and accompanying low dissolved oxygen in hard hit Western waters means additional stress for trout.
In our waters, we are releasing trout back into great conditions. As a general precaution releasing fish while still in the water, with the least touching possible is best.
Lifting a trout into 80F plus air temps and then returning to 50 degree water can send trout into temperature shock: you see the fish roll belly up and sink, rather than recover and swim off, like in spring or winter. Bring a trout in over the boat deck and now the temperature is way higher, and the likelihood of temperature shock is even higher.
If you have to lift a fish out of the water, manage the return with a lot more care, to keep the trout upright and ensure its gills are working, to allow it to recover. Yep your hands will get pretty frosty, its the price you pay for a pic of a good fish.
On the other hand keeping the fish wet with a low shot in the water or part lifted often makes a more memorable shot than the “grip and grin”