How to Catch, Photograph & Release a Trout - a Best-Practice Guide
In the UK wild trout must be caught under an adequate rod license. Such a license will cover you to fish not just for non-migratory trout, but also for char, eel, smelt and coarse fish. For trout fishing in particular, you'll be restricted to the use of 1 rod in rivers, streams, drains and canals but can use 2 rods in reservoirs, lakes and ponds. For more information on licenses and the one that will allow you to fish for trout in particular, visit the Government's website .
In the UK the native species of trout is Salmo trutta, or the Brown trout. Wild trout require special conditions to thrive and their presence is often seen as a sign of a healthy waterway. Trout are not found in all waterways however, not even in all healthy ones but there are certain regions that do have the right habitats and thriving populations. In particular the north and west of the UK have good areas to wild trout fish, as does the south-east.
It wouldn't be fair to say that because wild brown trout are so important and have such specialist requirements for their habitat, that they should be treated differently to any other fish that you catch. That said, there are some general best-practice rules for catching, recording and releasing wild trout should you be lucky enough to catch one.
The first rule of catching is releasing. The most important thing is that the fish is released back into the wild. If this can be done with minimal impact on the condition and distress of the trout then it's been a perfect catch.
As the aim is to release a trout back into the wild with little distress and minimal physical injury, it's really important that each stage of the catch is carefully considered. This includes making considerations over both the technique and equipment that you will use. Choosing the right combination of these will limit the amount of time needed to bring in your catch. Making the process of the catch as short as possible will cause the trout the least amount of stress. It is also essential that a barbless hook is used. Again this will result in less stress for the fish and of course it reduces the possibility of physical damage.
Once caught it can be tempting to loftily take the fish from the water and pose with it for a quick snap! When catching and recording wild trout, it's important that you don't do this, rather take the fish from the water with wet hands and bring it ever so slightly out of the water for the photograph. Unlike recording carp for example, when recording your wild trout catch, focus on length as opposed to weight, so make sure you take equipment with you that will allow you to do this.
When releasing your catch, you should do so by releasing it gently into the water, i.e. it's not best to release it from the bank which might involve a short launch back into the water. A trout's natural habitat tends to consist of shallow river beds, like the shallow chalk streams of the south-east, and so a gentle release once being placed into the water will mean that there is no risk for the fish colliding with the river bed. When doing this, turn the trout and face it into the direction of flow so that its gills can operate properly and when the fish is ready, gently let it go.
[caption id="attachment_69" align="alignnone" width="223"] Releasing a Trout by University of Michigan School of Natural Resources & Environment[/caption]
For more information on wild trout and their habitats visit the excellent Wild Trout Trust website.