The Columbia Basin Fish & Wildlife News Bulletin reports that a new study adds to the increasing literature on the fish mortality caused by catch and release practices. The study adds recommendations to further ensure we as fly fishers are not contributing to delayed mortality of the fish we target. The key recommendation coming from this study is that no more than ten seconds of air exposure should elapse from capture to release. Even this may be too much for a significantly stressed fish.
Three factors to consider are exhaustion, water temperature, and air exposure.
As I had written earlier here, fly fishers need to use tackle that brings the fish in as quickly as possible to minimize exhaustion. The days should be gone when fly fishers exalt over using very light tackle that requires long fights to land fish. An interaction with a live wild animal, even with a short fight, should be the thrill.
Fly Fishers should also refrain from fishing when water temperatures exceed the normal for the target species. For trout, that means no fishing above 68 degrees – and lower for some species (read here).
And finally, air exposure leads to a cascading set of conditions that dramatically increase mortality for the fish: Rainbow trout in particular have the highest mortality when exposed to air after the struggle to be landed. The fish should be kept in the water – even for a photograph (see here).
We have a responsibility to the fish we love and that we seek to bring to net. Each fish must be thought of as a link in a chain, with that chain leading to the future of the fishery.
You can read article here.