CMC's Denver Fly Fishing Section
Catch & Release Guidelines

These guidelines are generic*
but remembering them will give all species of fish a greater chance of survival. A fish is too valuable to be caught and enjoyed only once. Be responsible.

Use barbless hooks
or pinch the barb flat with pliers. If you use a net, use one made of cotton mesh or rubber. It is less harmful to fish scales, gills and eyes. Only net your fish if it is the only way to control it.

Wet your hands when handling fish.
Dry hands and gloves will remove the protective mucous coating and scales. These protective layers help prevent infection by waterborne disease. Do not beach a fish or let it flop around the boat deck.

Try not to remove the fish from the water. If you must, be quick and gentle . Do not squeeze the fish. Don't hold the fish near the gills or eyes. Needle-nose pliers, hemostats and de-hookers will speed up the removal of a deep set hook.

How to revive fish?
Hold it under the belly and by the tail. Keep it upright and underwater. Don't move the fish back and forth. Now's the time to measure and photograph. If you are in a stream, hold the fish facing the current. Be patient and provide as much time as needed for it to voluntarily swim away.

The most important survival factors are:

Line test -
Always use the heaviest line possible for each species of fish. Again, the longer you fight a fish, the more lactic acid is built up. The more exhausted the fish becomes, the greater is the chance it will not survive. This is particularly true when fishing large saltwater species such as billfish.

Hook Location - It would be ideal if all fish were hooked in either the upper or lower lip. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. When fishing with small lures or live bait the chance for hooking a fish deep in the gullet or in the gills is very high. Try to back the hook out the way it went in. Never pull on the line when the hook is lodged deep in the gullet. Cutting the line and returning the fish to the water as quickly as possible will give it its greatest chance for survival. The longer a fish is out of water and the more you practice your surgical techniques, the less the fish has a chance to live.

- When fishing depths of 30 feet or greater, you should bring a fish up slowly to the boat. This sometimes allows the fish to decompress (adjust to the change in water pressure). Pause while reeling the fish in and allow the air or gas from the fishes swim bladder to rise to the surface.

Water Temperature
- Playing a fish for an extended period of time in warm water increases its chance of dying. When the water temperature is high fish tire much more rapidly due to the increase of lactic acid that builds in their system. When fishing warm water, get the fish to you quickly and use a heavier line test.

* Courtesy of the Catch and Release Foundation ©2001
© 2010 Colorado Mountain Club. All rights reserved.