Thanks, thats why I don't carry a camera with me anymore for the trophy picture. I cut the leader close to the hook or cut the hook if possible with out endangering the fish without taking it out of the water.
No problem with the 12 steelies lost this past week, never got any of them except two to the final landing stage onto the bank and then they made their last burst into the log jam successfully breaking the 4 lb test leader.
" Better to have loved and lost, then never loved at all " I suppose would be the name of last weeks steelhead fishing trip for me.
First let me state that in no way am I attempting to side with or justify any practice that puts any other stresses on a fish after the fact of catching it. Holding fish out of the water, upside down (big females full of eggs can have the weight of the eggs do damage to their internal organs), holding fish vertically by the tail (causing organs to move down towards the head and crush other organs as well as possible spinal damage), completely beaching a fish, letting a fish flop around in the mud/silt/boulders, gilling a fish, etc. are all bad and not necessary in most situations.
With that said however, I am not convinced of the grim situation regarding mortality presented in many studies:
1. Many of the river in my area (Southern Ontario) are more creek than river, and many of these rivers receive large runs of fish (5,000 - 15,000) leading to many days where anglers can do exceptionally well. Of all the times spent fishing these rivers, even on days when a high number of fish are being caught and released (sometimes dozens to hundreds of people catching) I have yet to see any numbers of fish that have died for no apparent reason. Other than fish that have obviously been cut for their eggs (a shame) you do not see a lot of dead fish laying around. These rivers are not large, some may only be 40' across at the widest point, so these fish are not washing away, and a large number of the fisherman are ignorant and do not release the fish properly.
2.I am a member of a fishing club who operate a fish ladder in the springtime to collect eggs from steelhead to raise and release into the river so that we can have a steelhead run. (The ironic part of that is that this river could have one of the best steelhead fisheries in Ontario except for the actions of a few small special interest groups on the river, but their time is fast approaching) anyway, while collecting the eggs, processing the fish, and tagging the fish, some of the steelhead are out of the water longer than they should be, and not only do we not find dead fish piling up above the dam after we release them, but we catch many of these same fish upriver later in the spring, some of these fish return on subsequent years, and some of these fish are even caught in the lake fishery that exists.
These are only two practical examples that would not hold up to the findings of the studies mentioned above, but then in my short time I've come to understand that what you read in a textbook or discover in a lab is often not what occurs in nature. Thats the beauty of nature I suppose, and steelhead more specifically, because they don't always do what we expect them to.
I apologize for the rather long message, and I would like to close by saying that I think we should give nature/fish/steelhead a little more credit at their ability to overcome adversity. These fish are not as fragile as many would lead us to believe in many situations, if they didn't have some advanced/succesful mechanisms for survival, evolution would have got them a long time ago!
Especially in regards to the amount of 'handling' a steelhead would get at a hatchery when they're stripping the fish for eggs. Out come the eggs/sperm (and they're not 'romantic' about how the fish is handled), zip down a big plastic or metal pipe back into the river.
On the Rogue doubt I see a half dozen fish 'belly up' over a whole season.
if you exercised the fish to exhaustion and then mishandled it, you would have a higher degree of mortality. Having worked with fish and wildlife managers in the past, taking eggs does not stress the fish to the points of death. If you were to exercise these fish by hook and line, then take the eggs you would see a higher mortality. Yes our steelhead has the ability to recover but the research suggests that they are a valuable resource and should be handled with loving care.
As a guide, I can only speak about the waters that I fish. I have seen fish kills from high water temps and over exercised fish. I think that the mistake that many fly fishers make is to use too light of tippet making for a longer battle to hand. Our Oregon shallow water trophy lakes are a very good example. Hi mid summer water temps and fish kills are the norm on Crane Prairie, Davis Lake, Kalamath Lake and others.
I think that we all agree that catch and release is a worthy practice and the current level of research has proven that C&R does work if done correctly to protect our native fishes.
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