The Do's and Don'ts for catching and releasing wild New Zealand trout.
- Do use the strongest possible leader and tippet that you can get away with (I very rarely go under 6lb (2x) tippet ).
- Do bring them in as soon as possible to assure the best chance of survival. Most fish under 6lb can be hooked, landed and released within 10 minutes maximum of setting the hook.
- Do try to use a net as often as possible, if your fishing with a friend have him assist you to speed up the process.
- If you don't use a net, as soon as the fish roles on its side in the water grab its just above the tail with and apply firm pressure to the top of its back and underneath (not the side) this will settle the fish give you a good hold and stop it from thrashing about damaging its self and with your free hand remove the hook.
- Don't drag the fish across stones and rocks.
- Do try to remove the hook as quickly as possible, use barbless or crushed barb hooks to speed up the process.
- Always have the fish facing up stream and don't stand upstream of your fish as this puts silt in its gills.
- Don't take the fish out of the water unless you wish to take a photo. When taking photos keep the fish in your net till the person who is taking the photo is ready. Don't have your fish out of the water for any more than 10 seconds - if something goes wrong put the fish back in the water then have another go.
- When releasing your fish place it facing up stream into a light current and hold it there. If you have done the whole process properly the fish will regain it's strength and swim away to cover within 40 seconds, ready to be caught another day
- Never ever put your hands or fingers in their gills!
The advantages of using barbless (crushed barb) hooks.
Now you hear a lot about "never use barbless or squished barbs" or "I'm not good enough to use them" or "you lose too many fish" or "what if the line goes slack - won't I lose my fish?". Well, I've found that the drag of the line through the water is usually enough to keep the fish on until you get the slack up.
I've been using crushed barbed hooks since I was about a 15 years old when a very accomplished fly fisherman, on the other side of the river having a great day on the river gave me a couple of flies to try. Great I thought, only problem barbless hooks - having never used then before I thought I might lose too many fish but still wanted to hook a few fish. Anyway I tied one on and that still remains one of my better days fishing, landing more fish than lost.
- You will never have to use the rip and scream process of removing a hook from you finger.
- Flies are more easily removed from your clothes, net and trees.
- About half the time the fly falls out as soon as you net your fish thus reducing the risk to your fish and speeding up release times thus helping to protect this very fragile and very unique fishing resource we have here in New Zealand.
- From many years of personal experience using crushed barbs I've found that with the barbless hook it tends to set better, quicker, resulting in better hook ups and reducing the chance of losing fish. Think of it this way: how many times have you had a hook on your finger that stops right on the barb and you think "That was close!". With a barbless hook it goes straight in to the bend without much effort. I've found that the barb tends to act as a speed bump which can sometimes stop the hook from doing its job properly, resulting in more lost fish. If you're still in some doubt try this! Get two flies with the same size hook etc., crush the barb of one. then first with the barbless one, hook it into your vest, then with the barbed do the same thing and you'll soon notice which one works better.
Now most people say you'll never hook any fish unless you use a very fine tippet. Well, I'll prove you wrong! I quite often use 10lb tippet and don't have to much trouble hooking fish on a dry, with the added bonus of not losing very many flies. After all, they can retail from $2.50 a fly and after losing say 4 or 5 fish a day it can add up to a tidy sum by the end of a fishing trip. Plus, more time for fishing because you are not wasting time re-tying leaders, tippets and flies. One of the most important things I've found about line is the most expensive or top of the line flouro carbon isn't necessarily the best. When looking for line, look at the diameter of the line and breaking strain - smaller the diameter and heaver the breaking strain the better the line - e.g. 9.7lb 0.23mm. When buying line it pays to shop around for the best product for the job.
Fish successfully released will be there for you and others to enjoy chasing and catching in the future.