Kyle: As temps rise, chances of survival are lowered for fish (column)
The hot days of summer can be a killer for the beloved trout in the shallow waters of our local rivers. Trout thrive in cold water, which is a main reason there are so many great fisheries in the high country. However, this time of year the water heats up and can make for dangerous conditions for the fish.
This is a great time to practice the best catch-and-release techniques that we can. Keeping those trout that you catch in the water and releasing them quickly will help support the bright future for our rivers. I’m going to cover some different ways to keep the fish alive and to ensure your impact on our local trout is nothing but positive during the dog days of summer.
WET YOUR HANDS
Seeing dead fish in the water is a heartbreaker from me. Seeing dead fish in the water with hand marks on their sides really frustrates me. Before you handle a fish be sure to wet your hands.
Trout have a protective “slime” on their skin to prevent the growth of bacteria, when we grab fish with our dry hands or use non-rubber nets, we remove that protective layer and open that fish to the likely possibility of bacterias entering their systems.
The rise and use of rubber basket nets is great for trout fishing. Rubber nets, when wet, keep the fish safe when landing and removing the hook. Keep the net basket in the water while using hemostats or small pliers to remove the hook.
Fish live in water. We live on land. When we remove a fish from the water, it is unable to take in oxygen. I like to think about how long, if at all, I keep my fish out of the water. Try holding your breath for longer than fifteen seconds, now try doing that after you sprinted for a hundred yards. Fish are exhausted after being hooked and fought. When we take them out of the water, we are adding extra stress and fatigue to a fish that already fought to be landed.
Fish pictures are what all of us catch-and-release anglers strive for. However, this can be counterproductive if the fish die as a result of removing them from the water for an Instagram moment.
Try taking pictures of the fish in the net next to your hand to show size or if you have a GoPro, then take a picture of the fish underwater. Most of the time, underwater shots or creative in-net shots are much fresher looking than the classic grip-and-grin shot.
The use of barbless hooks is essential to quick and safe releases. As anglers, we should be keeping tension of the hook while fighting fish, eliminating the need for a barb. Using barbless hooks makes it simple, if not effortless to remove the hook from a stuck fish. The quicker the hook is removed from the fish, the less stress we are putting on our catch.
Proper handling of trout is essential for the longevity of their life and the quality of fish in any given fishery. We are very lucky to have a striving river to fish in our valley, however it is our job as anglers to keep the fish healthy and alive. Use of barbless hooks and rubber nets are items that help us protect the fish we catch. It is up to us to eliminate or limit the amount of picture we are taking while handling the fish. Remember keep ’em wet, keep ’em alive.
This summer is going to be a hot one for the state and the rivers around us. It is important that we are keeping an eye on the river conditions. The Eagle River flows appear to be dropping after a very early and short runoff this year. The temperatures are fine right now, however we still have a long summer ahead of us.
On the other hand, the Upper Colorado River is at a very low flow due to water being held back from the reservoirs that feed it. The low water means that it warms up faster. When the water reaches or surpasses 65 degrees, the trout in the river could be at risk. Try to carry a thermometer with you when you fish or float to monitor these temperatures. Think about packing up the fishing gear if the temps reach that danger zone.
The tailwaters of the Yampa River in Stagecoach are closed for the first half mile due to low flows. The lack of water has put an added stress to the large trout that live in these waters. The fish are all stacked up in the deeper holes, making it very easy for anglers to target them. Colorado Parks and Wildlife have closed this section until further notice.
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.