A Different Thought on Releasing Fish
I have always said this is an interesting and varied sport and that you never know where, or from whom, your next nugget of knowledge will come from. I recently had the opportunity to hear a program by Scott Cook, the owner and guide from the Fly & Field Outfitters of Bend Oregon. I have to say I came away very impressed.
Scott presented a great program on fly fishing the Cascade Lakes in Central Oregon. During the course of his presentation I learned a number of new things and some insights into fishing techniques but the one thing that struck me the most was his approach to releasing fish. From his presentation I learned the best technique, and reason for it, for catching the big Brookies and Atlantic Salmon that inhabit Hosmer Lake. I also gleaned some insight into chronomid life cycles, how it affects fish feeding activities and how best to fish them, and why. Turns out he was very knowledgeable and willing to share that knowledge.But, like I said, the one thing he talked about that I had heard almost nothing like before was his approach to releasing fish. Scott feels that when you hook a fish its strongest instinct is to flee, to get away from whatever has it. This fleeing instinct surfaces again as you bring the fish in to land it and it sees the boat, tube or you, it just wants to get away. Well, that same fleeing instinct happens one more time after you have removed the hook and put the fish back into the water. It just wants to get away. But Scott feels that just because it wants to flee that does not mean it is really ready to survive. It can swim away but may be too spent and has a greater chance of dying. He advocates that you, as the larger brain part of the duo, fight your own urge to release it as soon as it appears it can swim. Instead, he says, hold on to it for a short while longer, moving it forwards and back to get oxygen into it gills and for the lactic acid built up from the fight to dissipate, until it is truly rested. Help to increase its chance of survival by making sure it is fully recovered and you are not just giving it to its natural instinct to flee.
I found this concept of holding the fish longer than most of us probably do to be an interesting approach. I know it will be on my mind every time I release a fish. And now, hopefully yours as well.