Catch and release guidelines

The latest Spey weekly fishing report mentioned the need to observe best practice when handling fish. I thought I would just add to that timely reminder by drawing attention to this catch and release leaflet which was first published in 2013.

There has been a decent early run of fish in the Spey this spring and there are some pools which are clearly holding a reasonable stock of fish. The river is also unseasonably low and cold, with little sign of any significant change on the way. In similar conditons in recent years, more especially in the month of May, we have experienced high numbers of fish suffering from Saprolegnia (fungus) with the characteristic white blotches appearing all over. Once the fungus gets established to any significant extent on a fish death is almost inevitable, although they can recover from small growths. If conditions change, for example, if the river stays low, but the temperatures increased, we would almost certainly suffer many losses, although snow showers are forecast for the next few days, so that scenario appears unlikely for the next week at least.

Fungus can become established on any fish due to stress, or via predator damage for example, but poor handling during catch and release could be a significant contributary factor. This was brought home to me this week when I saw the photo below.

This 38″ fish was hooked and landed, playing like any other springer, on the Spey last week but it was covered in small fungus growths, including on the tail which was badly damaged. The fish was landed on a sandy beach and photographed before return. Even if the fish had been in pristine condition that in itself would have caused damage to the protective mucus layer and possibly scale loss and subsequently allowed fungus to take hold. 

Incidentally, the presence of fungus on a fish at this time of year is an indicator that it is a fresh fish. Kelts which have survived to this time of year are invariably clean and well mended, and much less susceptible to fungus infection than a fresh run fish.

As conditions are currently high risk for significant losses of fish through fungus infection all anglers should to be careful to observe best practice when handling and releasing fish. The leaflet highlighted above provides excellent advice. Play the fish quickly, plan the landing, carry a net if on your own, unhook quickly using forceps and keep the fish in the water as much as possible. Recording the catch with a photo is part of angling nowadays but when doing so the fish should ideally be kept in the water or photographed by lifting it briefly just above the water.

Of course things don’t always go to plan and in the understandable excitement of the moment, especially when there is a trophy fish involved, standards can slip. We have had a decent start to the season but spring fish are still not abundant; lets make sure that everyone uses best practice, if and when, we are fortunate enough to catch one.

There are 2 comments for this article
  1. nick warren at 8:21 am

    Quite right ! I understand wanting a photo of a a personal best but surely we don’t need to take every fish out of the water

  2. Pingback: Handling fish: Good read/good reminder. - The North American Fly Fishing Forum

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