When you go out fishing for wild trout and have a “good day” (and we hope you have many) it is because the fishermen and women who came before you respected the resource you’re now fishing. In today’s world, there are very few places so remote that you will be the only person to fish them. That you had a good day testifies to your predecessors’ good stewardship. As a newcomer to the sport, we hope you will carry on this noble tradition.
The 7″ wild trout you catch in a typical headwater stream is most likely 3 years old. A 10″ fish is a giant, 4 or 5 years old, and likely under 1% of the population. If you kill them, no stocking truck is going to replace them, and it will take years for other fish to take their place.
Studies show that fishermen using sports tackle, and observing state harvest limits, probably can’t wipe out a trout population by themselves. But they can reduce the size and quantity of the fish that others catch, and they can make an already vulnerable population even more vulnerable to the cycles of flooding and drought.
That’s why most wild trout fishermen practice catch and release fishing, and why we request that you do too….
- Pinch down the barb of your hook.
- Release fish quickly and gently.
- Try not to handle them at all, but if you must, wet your hands first (dry rocks are as bad as dry hands in removing protective slime from a trout’s skin). The best release is simply to slip the hook from the fish’s mouth while it’s still in the water.
- Want a picture? Try taking it while the fish is under control but still in the water. That way you minimize stress and handling.
Want to know more? A well written guide to catch and release fishing is found here.
Recognize that many “native” populations of fish are barely holding on. Many must be released if caught (of course, you’d have done that anyway ;-). Many streams in which they live are closed to angling, or strictly limited. It goes without saying that you should OBSERVE ALL STATE OR TRIBAL REGULATIONS when fishing for wild trout, especially “natives”. Just because you find a stream on a map on this website, doesn’t mean it’s legal to fish. CHECK REGULATIONS BEFORE GOING OUT.
There’s also a distinct etiquette to dealing with other wild trout fishermen. Please read about it here.
With all that said, welcome to the club! Wild trout fishing is endlessly satisfying and almost always challenging. Please enjoy it with us, and respect the fisheries that we all share.