Handling Trout in Cold Weather

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Photo by Louis Cahill

Photo by Louis Cahill

By Louis Cahill

Handling trout in cold weather requires special care.

When temperatures drop below freezing good catch-and-release practices become critical. We think of trout as needing special handling care when water temperatures are high, but fish are just as vulnerable when air temperatures are low. Mishandling fish in cold weather can easily be fatal.

Fish are, of course, cold blooded. They’re bodies do not produce heat like ours do and this leaves them especially vulnerable to frostbite. The fragile tissues of their gils can freeze in an instant when air temps are below freezing. Again, they have no body temperature to stabilize their cells, so it happens quickly.

We adapt very well to cold temperatures. We have evolved to survive wide temperature swings. Fish on the other hand have evolved in a world which never drops below freezing, so taking them out in the cold air is as alien to them as dropping us on the surface of Mars.

The solution is simple. Don’t take fish out of the water when air temps are below freezing.

It’s a little cold on your hands but you can handle it. They can’t. If you don’t like the idea of putting your hands in cold water during winter, get yourself a good C&R tool. I like the Rising Crocodile tool. It’s a great C&R tool as well as pliers and a cutter. You can easily unhook a fish without getting your hands wet.

Please, never beach fish on the snow for a photo. This is basically tossing them in the cooler. Nothing breaks my heart like seeing photos of fish lying on the snow. If you respect the fish, and practice good catch-and-release, you’ll find yourself with better fishing when spring rolls around.

Louis Cahill
Gink & Gasoline
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5 thoughts on “Handling Trout in Cold Weather

  1. Pingback: Tippets: Catch & Release in Cold Weather, Fly Aesthetics - Pesca y Bits

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