September, one of my favorite times of the year to ﬁsh, is here. The members of the Salmonid family, trout and salmon (Rainbows are the exception, they spawn in spring) are thinking about the coming spawning season. Soon these ﬁsh will begin to make their way to the traditional spawning areas and are thinking of romance, trout style! Before they actually arrive at the area of the spawning beds, they typically will be gathering in areas that I have always called “staging areas.” An example of one of these is the Big Eddy, in the Big Magalloway River at Aziscohos Lake in Oxford County. Because they become concentrated in these staging areas, they can also be more vulnerable as salmonids, especially male brook trout, become quite aggressive during this period.
Releasing ﬁsh properly with as little trauma as possible is critical. The ﬁsh should be brought to hand quickly. If you are using a net, consider using one of the soft rubber nets that are much less damaging to ﬁsh than the old nylon mesh nets. It is very important to wet your hands before you handle salmonids. Dry hands have a tendency to wipe off the protective slime that helps to protect them during spawning. If a ﬁsh is deeply hooked, cut the line or leader versus trying to reach into the ﬁsh’s mouth to remove it. Hooks are cheap! Once the hook has been removed, hold the ﬁsh so that it faces upstream, into the current. This allows moving water to ﬂ ow through the gills, providing oxygen right away. If you are in a boat on ﬂ at water, please don’t grab the ﬁsh by the tail and haul it back and forth in the water. Hold the ﬁsh by the base of the tail, and cup your front hand under his belly. Now move him forward for as far as you can reach, then very slowly move him backwards, then repeat the process. This can take a bit of patience, but the ﬁsh will tell you when he’s ready to swim on his own. I realize that catch & release is not for everyone; however, every ﬁsh put back into the water is a ﬁsh that another angler can enjoy tomorrow.