Wednesday, August 18, 2010

To Fish or Not to Fish- Tips on Reviving Fish

I just need to give my 2 cents on reviving fish. I have heard too many stories, as of late, of anglers seeing trout lying belly up in the stream. Sometimes we forget (or are just not aware) how we are suppose to revive and release our fish; let alone the trophy.

Trout fishing during the "Dog Days" is not only about trying to tickle the desire of experiencing euphoria but it's about the importance of the fish and being sure you do your part to revive them properly. It's more of an ethical issue than anything. To fish or not to fish?  I have nothing against anglers fishing during this time of the year but certain steps need to be taken to insure that your catches are fought and released properly.

First and foremost, get on the water from dawn until about noon, if you can. The overnight period is the only time during the 24 hour day that the river and streams have time to cool down a smidgen. That being said, with 90 plus degree days and 70 plus degree nights, like we have here in the Southeast US and elsewhere, there really isn't much of  a cool down during that period. Therefore, unless you're fishing a higher elevation, spring fed stream with tons of canopy, or a bottom draw tailwater, I don't think you should trout fish at all. Remember, ideal water temperatures for the cold water trout are between 44 and 64 degrees.  Below is a caption about reading the water but it covers temperature ranges, oxygen levels, and the Mr. trouts metabolism (which is controlled mostly by water temperatures).

While very cold water can hold the maximum of dO2 it also slows the trout’s metabolism to the point of suspended animation ( a cryogenic effect ). This is the way it works: from 32 f to 44 f the trout is slowed to the point of needing very little food and he has a over abundance of dO2, up to 30ppm. At 50 f to 55 f the trout’s activity increases and they actively feed for long periods of time and they still have an over abundance of dO2. When the water temperature reaches the 55 f to 65 f range you have the ideal fishing conditions. The trout’s metabolism is in high gear and they feed constantly, dO2 is in the 18 to 12ppm range and there is plenty of food. The food; aquatic insects and their larvae, minnows of all types and crustaceans are prolific and abundant. The fisherman only has to give a proper presentation and he will hook a trout. The great decline starts when the water temperature climbs to 68 f. Brown, Brook and Cutthroat trout start to feel what I call the frying pan effect. Unless there is a lot of turbulence to oxygenate the water, the dO2 falls rapidly to perilously low levels. The trout’s metabolism is racing furiously along and he is burning oxygen as fast as he can adsorb it from the water. As the sun heats the water, he uses the dO2 faster and faster. With out some type of escape valve he will suffocate.  Fishing for Trout by Bryant J. Cochran, Jr.

Next, when you hook a fish land it as quickly as you possible. Try not to putter aimlessly (what I call lallygagging) while playing a fish. Put the "wood" to them, or graphite in our day and age. Use the heaviest leader and tippet material you can get away with. Fluorocarbon is always your best bet. Orvis Mirage is some of the best you'll find.

Once you get the fish to the net (something you must be sure to have and hopefully one with rubber netting like Brodin manufactures). Once netted, be sure to let the fish rest a bit in the net before anything else is done. If you need the "grip and grin" shot be sure to leave the fish in the water, facing upstream, and making sure you have your ducks in a row before you take the shot. When you're ready and the cameraman is ready, pick the fish up and take the shot. Then, back to the net. It is important to learn to hold fish and PLEASE DONT DROP THEM.

Now we're ready to revive them. When reviving, dont move them back and forth in the current (the back part sends water through the gills in the wrong direction). Just hold them in the current with their head facing upstream, in a good bubble line. You'll want to revive them at least twice as long as it took to land them. Maybe even more this time of the year. The lactic acid builds to a point the fish needs extra help getting the oxygen levels and blood pH back to normal; especially the bigger fish. 

What is Lactic Acid Buildup?
Physical exertion from a particularly long fight causes an oxygen deficiency in a fish’s tissues. This forces the fish’s muscles to function without oxygen (anaerobically), which in turn causes lactic acid to build up in the muscle tissue and diffuse into the blood. This subsequently causes the blood pH to drop. Even slight changes in pH can cause disruptions of the metabolic processes that may ultimately kill the fish.
If an angler avoids handling the fish and releases it quickly, its blood pH usually returns to normal and the fish survives. But while fish may appear alive after a long fight, when released, the imbalance in the blood chemistry may kill them as much as three days after capture. This is why, with any species, it’s important to choose the right tackle for the job and get the fish in as quickly as possible.  Easy Does It by Captain John Murray 
Here is another great article from Midcurrent that is a must read: Good Trout Release Practices .

Fluorocarbon Leader and Tippet Material

Brodin Ghost Nets

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