Salmon Fly season on the madison river

Fish are Friends, Not Fodder


Keeping catch and release fishing as ethical as possible!

By Guide: James “Jimbob” Terry

“Game fish are too valuable to be caught only once” -Lee Wulff

Wether we like it or not, fly fishing can be a blood sport. As gentle as we may try to be when handling our fishy friends, occasionally one just doesn’t survive the catch and release process. It happens to the best of us, and I think (hope) that Saint Peter will still let us into heaven despite it… That said, it’s our responsibility as sport anglers to ensure it happens as little as possible. When it comes to mortality rates observed in catch and release fishing for trout, I’ve seen numbers thrown out there anywhere from 1% to 20%. Based on an average of those numbers and my own personal experiences, I would say the number is closer to an average mortality rate of 8%. Good conditions, ethical tackle selection, and proper handling techniques can bring that mortality rate down significantly.

No one likes catching a fish with facial scars from treble hooks or big barbed hooks and they make the release process significantly more difficult and take longer. This is just one trout bum’s opinion… but neither barbed hooks or treble hooks have any place in catch and release trout fishing. Fishing barbless, single pointed hooks is a great way to ensure you can remove the hook quickly and get that fish back on its way without any permanent damage to its smile. There are ever little tools you can find at your local fly shop that help make hook removal smooth and streamline. As of this year, it is the law that only barbless, single pointed hooks can be used from Varney Bridge to Ennis Lake on the Upper Madison River.

Another easy thing we can do to ensure we aren’t harming trout we’re about to release is making sure to “keep ‘em wet”. Only handle trout with bare wet hands, steer clear of the gills, and try to never hold them out of water for more than 10 seconds or so at a time. When taking a picture, hold the fish over the net or water, or even halfway in the water (it actually makes for a great picture!). It’s also ok to not photograph every single trout you catch, we believe you. Be especially careful not to drop a trout in the boat or on the bank, they’re delicate!

The last (but extremely important) thing to bear in mind is not fishing conditions that are dangerous for the fish. Hot/ low water with stressed out trout is a sure-fire recipe for the mortality rate to go up. Fish have an extremely hard time recovering from being caught and handled in conditions like these. If you ever notice water temps 68 degrees or above, consider fishing somewhere else or even for a different species. (Carp can be a damn fun pursuit while giving trout a break during the hotter stretches of summer)

We all love our local waters and the trout that inhabit them, let’s make sure we’re protecting our resources!


Fishing Reports and Trips

  • Fishing Reports

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