Catch-and-release on warmer waters could be deadly to fish
JACKSON HOLE, WYO – Warm temps are tough on trout. With air and water temperatures soaring in the region, anglers are reminded that catch-and-release trout fishing may not be prudent.
Wyoming Game and Fish is particularly concerned with the impact on trout in the Green River.
“Trout experience significant mortality at prolonged exposure to water temperatures greater than 75 degrees Fahrenheit and brief exposure to temperatures over 80 degrees are lethal,” said Green River fisheries supervisor Robert Keith. “As water levels drop and water temperatures rise we are asking anglers fishing on the river to monitor water temperatures while fishing. Being caught and released is stressful on any fish, but especially trout and kokanee salmon. Anglers should give fish a break as water temperatures reach over 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Even if a fish swims away from an angler it does not mean it is going to survive.”
Keith says anglers can reduce impacts to fish by fishing early in the morning while water temperatures are cooler, and carry a thermometer to monitor water temperature. If the temperature is at or above 65 degrees, reconsider plans to catch-and-release trout in local rivers and streams.
Fish survival rates in Flaming Gorge Reservoir are also a concern, as the water temperature in local reservoirs is also warming up. Keith said many anglers are proud of the fact that they catch-and-release fish, however, the percentage of fish lost after release could be as high as 10%. For kokanee, the death rate is higher than other fish species because they are more fragile than other fish.
“Anglers are having a great year fishing for kokanee salmon,” Keith said. “However, kokanee do not handle catch and release fishing very well and do even more poorly when water temperatures are warm. If you are fishing for kokanee, we recommend limiting the practice of catch-and-release, especially when surface temperatures are warm. Surface temperatures are reaching the low 70’s on hot days. The kokanee are living at depths of 45 to 65 feet where the water temperature is around 45 degrees Fahrenheit. The more than 20-degree temperature change from depth to the surface is stressful to the fish. Add to that the stress of being caught, handled, and released. The result is some kokanee swimming away to die.”
Proper catch-and-release practice should not involve bringing a fish into the boat. The best strategy is to get a fish off hook while it is still netted in the water.
Anglers planning to catch and keep their fish are encouraged to still do so. Be sure to bring plenty of ice and a cooler to keep the fish fresh after harvesting it and during transport