There comes a time when the water becomes too warm to responsibly fish for trout, and it’s a tough pill to swallow. 

As trout anglers we have a duty to ensure that the fish we catch are handled with as much care as possible.  It’s a task that becomes taller as the dog days of summer creep closer. While there might be a time that fishing shuts down completely, here are a few tips to extend the season by safely handling trout when they hit the net. 

Keep Em Wet! 

It’s more than just an Instagram hashtag!  Fish should be left in the water as much as possible when the water becomes akin to a bath.  A rubber mesh landing net helps quite a bit in this regard, and popping the hook out while the fish rests gently helps their survival rate tremendously.  Any fish that needs the use of forceps or further handling should receive the benefit of a wet hand and relaxed grip. 

Limit Your Pictures 

Keeping the camera or phone stowed away is sometimes easier said than done, but it can be in the best interest of the fish!  Lifting the fish up out of the water for even a few seconds can be disastrous for its health. If an extraordinary trout is landed and a picture is needed, keep the fish in the net while the camera is prepared and focused.  Once everything else is in place lift the fish up gently for less than five seconds and snap as many photos as you’d like! If the trout is airborne for any longer than five seconds the chances of survival are diminished greatly. 

Go Barbless 

While fishing with barbless flies is always a good idea, it becomes even more important during the heat of summer.  The most stressful moments for the fish come once it lands in the net and require our attention. In most cases it’s not entirely necessary to land the fish and some long distance releases are in the best interest of both fish and anglers.  This is commonplace when fishing with barbless flies. 

Here are a few more tips:

  • Never touch a fish with a dry hand!
  • Keep your fingers far away from the gills. Safe spots to hold a fish are directly at the dorsal fin and in front of the tail
  • Use heavy enough tippet to land fish quick! Overplaying puts a great deal of stress on trout.
  • Revive every fish caught, even you think they don’t need it!

July and August are the most dangerous months for trout.  Water warms to dangerous levels and despite our best efforts, some of the caught fish won’t make it.  Follow these tips to make sure we do everything possible to keep the trout out of harm’s way and safe to be caught another day!