Give fish a break: 6 recommendations for anglers to help preserve the trout
July 5, 2018
Sixty-eight degrees. That's the temperature that all anglers who target trout need to be looking out for.
This is the temperature that trout become stressed and can easily be killed if hooked and fought on a line. It's hard for people to not go out and fish when the weather is so nice, but if you care about the river and the fish that provide so much joy, then it'll be easy for you to forgo your next afternoon trip down to the river.
Trout are a very sensitive fish. They need clean, cold water with an abundance of insect life, places to hide from predators, and spots with gravel to lay eggs. The local rivers usually provide all of these necessities, however this year the cold water is lacking.
The less than average snowfall from last winter coupled with the early and persistent heat has warmed the shallow rivers to a point where fish are struggling to survive. Warmer water has less oxygen, which means the fish are not getting the adequate supply. This oxygen depleted water stresses the fish.
When anglers hook a stressed fish, they are taking away the already low amount of oxygen in the course of the fight. Even with proper practicing "catch and release techniques," these fish can't get the oxygen back into their systems when the water is warm and most likely will perish. Many of us have already witnessed numerous dead fish in the river and if people continue to fish after the river hits 68 degrees, we will be seeing much more.
What can you do?
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There are several things you can do to help. Many of the local fly shops and outfitters have already began to limit their time on the water. Guided trips are leaving the shops much earlier and only going on half day trips. This is to ensure that these trips are off the water before noon (the time of day the water really begins to heat up.
Here are six recommendations for any angler that wants to preserve the trout life in our local rivers for years to come:
• Fish early and be done early. The fishing is great early in the morning when the bug life is popping and the water is nice and cool. As the day progresses and the air temperature rises, so does the water temps. Around noon is when we are seeing steady rise in the river temperatures. Try to wrap up your day on the water by noon and encourage your friends to do the same.
• Carry and use a thermometer. This is the best way to actively monitor the temperatures. After 10 a.m., it's important to start taking temperature reading to ensure that you are fishing when the temperatures are ideal for the fish. Set a timer on your phone for 30 minutes. When the timer goes off, take a couple minutes to get a new reading. If the temperature is rising and getting close to the 68 degree mark, start packing up your gear and call it a day.
• Less fish handling. This should be an easy one. You don't need to touch every fish. If you are practicing catch and release techniques, then you are already are pinching the barbs or using barbless hooks. Hooks without barbs are effortless to remove from a fish's lip and can be done in the net without removing the fish from the water.
• Leave the camera in your pocket. You don't need to take a picture of every fish you catch. I'm sure most of your social media feeds are overflowing with grip and grin fish pics, mine is. What's cooler than posting that new profile picture of you holding a fourteen inch stocked rainbow? Keeping them alive.
• Go explore our High Country. These High Country lakes and streams are much colder than the rivers and creeks in the low lying valley. The air temp is much more comfortable as well. These High Country lakes take a little work to get to, but the rewards can be amazing. Most fish inhabiting these streams and lakes are very happy to take dry flies without a question. There are numerous small creeks and mountain lakes surrounding the Vail Valley. Come by the shop and we'll get you dialed in for what's working in our hidden fisheries.
• Pray for rain. In the winter, we have our superstitions about what works to get the snow for our mountains. Some of us pray, some flush ice cubes down the toilet, some do a "snow dance", I personally throw a current season's trail map in the freezer. We need to start doing some praying or dancing or anything else that may bring some moisture to our extremely dry valley.
Do the right thing
As most of you know, this summer has already been a very hot one with no respite in sight. If you are an angler that loves his or her local rivers, you should do your best to keep our amazing resource healthy. We need to remind ourselves that we are very fortunate to have such a world class fishery in our backyard. If your friend asks you to go fish in the afternoon, politely educate that friend and pass along some knowledge. Not only will you be doing a great thing for our fish, you will look like your a pro angler. Give these fish a break, they deserve it.
Ray Kyle is the Shop Supervisor and a Guide at Vail Valley Anglers. He can be reached at 970-926-0900 or firstname.lastname@example.org