The last time I had opportunity to spend some time with one of the professional fly fishing guides from Minturn Anglers in Denver Colorado, he talked to me about the best way to catch and release fish safely. His sincerity about respecting this natural resource was contagious, and what he told me is important enough to share.

catch and release the right way- Carp in Urban Denver South Platte River

There is a growing trend among fly fishermen to follow catch and release practices. In fact, in many fishing spots, it is the only kind of fishing allowed. Following proper technique will reduce potential harm to the fish. Here are some important guidelines:

  • Play a catch for as short a time as possible, remembering that a fish that is played for too long a time will become exhausted and may not recover
  • When out of water, a fish will suffocate and scale loss and internal injuries are more likely to occur, so keep the catch in the water as much as possible
  • Try turning fish onto their backs when in the water to help reduce stress and how much they struggle
  • Use needle-nose pliers to quickly and gently remove the hook
  • Nets used to land fish should be constructed with a fine mesh and knotless webbing to reduce abrasion and possible injury to the fish
  • Use bare and wet hands to handle the fish, keeping fingers out of the gills; be careful not to squeeze the fish or damage scales
  • Try to take photos of the fish while it is still in the water; if the fish has to be lifted, be sure to provide necessary support; one hand should be just ahead of the tail, and the other hand cradling the fish behind the front fins; do not hold a fish vertically by the gills or upside down by the tail
  • Keep the time the fish is out of water to a minimum; some experts follow a three second rule
  • Hold a fish in the water to help it recover
  • Point a fish upstream while reviving it, and release it when it starts to struggle

If you watch carefully, you may even see your newly released fish look back at you to say thank you! What better way to end a perfect cast and catch than realizing this same fish will again test the skills of another fly fishing enthusiast

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