Catch and release at Kloofzicht Lodge
“A game fish is too valuable to be caught only once”
As a youngster I remember going fishing with my Dad, with a pole, yards of nylon, a cork and a worm on a hook. Putting a fish back into the water was something unheard of then!
It wasn’t until a few years later, that I was introduced to fly fishing & started hearing about catch and release.
Catch and release has been around for a long time and is now very widely adopted in many fisheries around the world. For many of us, the question is not whether catch and release is a good thing or not, but how well it is done.
Catch and release does not work if not practiced correctly. The quick guide below will give some details to best practice the catch and release as well as some of the impacts.
Catch and release – the quick guide:
• Use barbless hooks
• Bring the fish to the net as quickly as possible
• Keep the fish in the water
• Handle as little as possible, and always with wet hands
• Do not squeeze – it damages internal organs
• Remove the hook using forceps if necessary
• Avoid contact with the bank or gravel as this removes protective slime
• Release the fish by pointing its nose into the current so that water is flowing over its gills
• Support it gently until it swims away
Netting the fish:
• Use a net! For anything but very small fish, a net is the most effective way to perform catch and release with minimum damage to the trout.
• The objective is to get the fish to the net and back into the water as quickly as possible to maximise its chances of survival.
• Keep the trout up-stream of you if at all possible. Be prepared to move to keep the trout upstream. Pulling upstream could mean loss of the fish
• Take pride in the skill you demonstrate in landing a big fish rather than in the length of the fight.
• Don’t have a tug of war, rather learn to throw the fish off balance by moving the rod left and right to create side strain. Bring the fish into slack water to net it.
• It will help to crouch down as you bring the trout to the net so the trout is less alarmed. moment.
• As soon as the trout’s head is up, get the net below the water. Bring the trout to the net, ideally using the flow of the river to help you.
For more useful information on this topic, read Don Stazicker’s article ‘Fish Fighting Skills for Catch and Release Fishing’.
• These are much easier to remove quickly than barbed hooks, and research carried showed that they caused less damage to the fish. (As an added bonus, they are also much easier to remove from your finger, net or hat)
• Will you lose more fish by using barbless flies? Opinions vary, but many experienced anglers will say no.
• Using a net is the easiest way to minimise handling the fish (and removing slime) and keeping the trout in the water whilst you remove the hook.
• The best nets have a fairly fine rubber mesh. They have the added advantage that they dry quickly, as easy to disinfect and don’t smell!
• If wading, hold the handle of the net between your knees whilst removing the hook.
• If you are fishing from the bank, ensure your net has a long enough handle for you to be able to reach down into the water to net the fish.
• Keep the net & the fish in the water while you reach down to remove the hook. DO NOT lift the net and fish onto the bank out of the water
• Have long-nosed forceps (or a release tool) in your hand as soon as the trout is in the net.
• Don’t squeeze the body of the trout, cradle it belly up in the net whilst you remove the hook.
• If you’re battling to remove the hook quickly (ie it is the throat of the fish), cut the leader closest to the hook and leave it behind. It will work its way out and is likely to cause less damage
Holding trout for photos:
• Cradle the trout just behind the head and hold the wrist of the tail firmly.
• Keep the trout in the water, lifting it out very briefly to just above the water to take the shot.
• Always support larger trout with two hands.
• Holding a live trout for a photo can be very tricky & it is tempting to want to squeeze the fish to get a better grip. However, you could inadvertently be killing a fish that you are planning to release, as the place where people will mostly tend to hold and squeeze a fish – just behind the head – is where the heart and liver are located. A fish subjected to squeezing of the heart may swim away but die soon after.
• For large fish, it is important to support the fish so that the back isn’t sagging.
How long should it be out of the water?
• Ideally less than 10 seconds )certainly not minutes)
• If the water stops dripping off the fish, it’s too long.
• If another shot is required, rather, put it back into the net in the water to recover for a minute or two and try again.
How big is it?
• A weigh net can be used but don’t hoist the fish out of the water, supported only by the net, for more than a second or two.
• An alternative is to measure the length of the fish from head to tail using a measure stuck onto your rod. You can measure a trout against your rod easily without removing it from the water.
Letting it go:
• Point the nose of the fish into the current to allow water to flow over its gills.
• You need a reasonable flow but not a torrent
• If the fish instantly kick away, well done. If the trout is under stress, it may take a few minutes to recover before swimming off.
• Hold the trout gently in the water until it moves off & do not move it backward and forwards.
• Water needs to flow through the mouth and out over the gills for the fish to breathe.
In summary, a few things to avoid:
1. Do not hold the trout out of the water for more than 10 seconds. Remember a gasping trout is ‘drowning’ in air.
2. Do not Lay the trout on grass or shingle or any surface away from the water. This will remove the slime which protects them from disease,
3. Do not touching the trout with hot, dry hands as this will also remove slime. Always wet your hands before handling.
4. Do not squeeze or get your fingers near or in the gills.
5. Do not have a wrestling match to remove the hook. Barbless hooks should come out easily but if you can’t remove them then cut the leader close to the hook and leave the hook in place.
Do catch and release make a difference to the number and size of trout?
• Catch and release is a great conservation strategy, but simply letting a fish go does not guarantee it will live.
• The actions you take before, during, and after you land a fish can improve its chances of survival, keep fish stocks healthy, and keep fishermen fishing.
• Properly releasing fish to fight another day helps ensure high-quality angling opportunities today, tomorrow, and in the years to come.
Fly fishing is now open for guests and day visitors at Kloofzicht Lodge & Spa. No fishing equipment is supplied, but guests are encouraged to bring their own rod, reel, and wading gear, as Kloofzicht Lodge is renowned for its fly fishing.
Terms & conditions apply
• Bookings are essential
• Subject to availability.
• Strict Covid-19 protocol will be implemented
Kloofzicht Lodge can be contacted directly for any further information or rates:
(011) 317 0600 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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About Guvon Hotels & Spas
Guvon Hotels & Spas is a leading hospitality group offering a collection of hotels in Gauteng. All properties offer excellent accommodation, conference, team building and wedding facilities. Kloofzicht Lodge & Spa, Glenburn Lodge & Spa and Bush Willow Tented Camp are in Muldersdrift, in the Cradle of Humankind. The Fairway Hotel, Spa & Golf Resort (Randpark Golf Club) add city retreats to our country collection of properties.
www.guvonhotels.co.za | Central Reservations: 08611 48866