Stay Fly: 6 tips to preserve trout life in local rivers during warmer water temps
Give the fish a break
Sixty-eight degrees. That’s the temperature that all anglers who target trout need to be looking out for. This is the temperature when 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 want to preserve the resource 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 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 in the afternoon heat. 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 in the afternoon, they are taking away the already low amount of oxygen in the course of the fight. Even with properly 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.
What can you do?
There are several things you can do to help. Many of the local fly shops and outfitters have already begun 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 the afternoon heat.
Here are six recommendations for any angler that wants to preserve the trout life in our local rivers for years to come:
1. 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. The afternoon is when we are seeing a steady rise in the river temperatures. Try to wrap up your day on the water in the early afternoon and encourage your friends to do the same.
2. Carry and use a thermometer
This is the best way to actively monitor the temperatures. After 10 o’clock in the morning, it’s important to start taking temperature readings 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, then start packing up your gear and call it a day.
3. 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 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.
4. 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 14-inch stocked rainbow? Keeping them alive.
5. 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.
6. 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.
Give these fish a break
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, then 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 you’re a pro angler.
Give these fish a break, they deserve it.
Ray Kyle is the guide service coordinator and a guide at Vail Valley Anglers. He can be reached at 970-926-0900 or email@example.com.