Anglers Cautioned About Catch and Release in Extreme Heat

GREEN RIVER—Air and water temperatures are soaring and river flows are coming down and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department's Green River fish management staff is very concerned about the impacts catch and release fishing may be having on local fisheries.

"Trout experience significant mortality at prolonged exposure to water temperatures greater than 75 degrees Fahrenheit and brief exposure to temperatures over 80 degrees are lethal," said Green River Fisheries Supervisor Robert Keith. "As water levels drop and water temperatures rise we are asking anglers fishing on the Green River to monitor water temperatures while fishing. Anglers should give fish a break as water temperatures reach over 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Fish handling mortality can be quite high when water temperatures get over 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Even if a fish swims away from an angler it does not mean it is going to survive."

Keith says anglers can reduce impacts to fish by fishing early in the morning while water temperatures are cooler and carry a thermometer to monitor water temperature. If the temperature is at or above 70 degrees, reconsider your plans to catch and release trout in local rivers and streams. It's a good idea to stop fishing for the day and give the fish a break.

Fish survival in Flaming Gorge Reservoir is also a concern, as the water temperature in local reservoirs warm up. Keith said many anglers are proud of the fact that they catch and release fish, and they should be. However, anglers should remember that the percentage of fish lost after release could be as high as 10%, even under ideal conditions. For kokanee, the death rate is higher than other fish species because Kokanee don't handle well the stress of being caught and released.

"Kokanee fishing has been good this year, but with current warm water temperatures anglers need to consider the impact they may be having on future fishing opportunities," Keith said. "As mentioned , kokanee do not handle catch and release fishing very well and do even more poorly when water temperatures are warm. If you are fishing for kokanee, we recommend limiting the practice of catch and release, especially when surface temperatures are warm and the kokanee are deep. Surface temperatures are reaching the low 70's on hot days. The kokanee are living at depths greater than 60 feet where the water temperature is around 45 degrees Fahrenheit. The more than 20 degree temperature change from depth to the surface is stressful to the fish. Add to that the stress of being caught, handled, and released. The result is some Kokanee don't swim away and others swim away just to die later."

"If you are going to catch and release fish never bring them into the boat. As soon as you bring a kokanee into the boat the chances of it surviving decreases significantly," Keith said. "The best strategy is to net the fish with a rubberized net keeping the fish in the water at all times. Carefully remove the hook and release the fish. If you release a Kokanee and it floats to the surface turn the boat around, collect the fish and add it to your limit. A Kokanee that floats on the surface is not going to revive and go down eventually. "

Anglers planning to harvest fish please limit your impact to the fishery by harvesting the first few fish you catch instead of release several small fish so you can take big fish home. Be sure to bring a cooler and plenty of ice to keep the fish fresh after harvesting it and during transport. For more information about catch and releasing fish properly call the Green River Region Game and Fish Office at 307-875-3223. Anglers will find additional information at the Game and Fish website