How to Catch and Release a Trout


There’s no doubt that a pan-fried, wild trout meal, eaten in the high mountains, is a memorable meal indeed, especially when shared with friends. In remote locations, a healthy, wild-trout population can handle this culinary pressure, but trout fisheries situated closer to large human populations can’t. On these more accessible fisheries, it’s best to catch and release your fish…and it might even be the law.

Although the practice of catch and release can be traced back to 19th century Britain, most of what the USA knows about catch and release fishing started in the 1950’s. It was during these post-war years that the concept of “leisure time” began to grow in popularity…fishing being a big part of it. With added catch and keep fishing pressure, wild fish populations soon began to decline. Something had to be done to ensure a healthy, wild population of fish for avid, weekend anglers. Catch and release was the answer.

But are there trade offs to catch and release fishing? Some organizations like PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) view catch and release fishing as even more inhumane than catching, killing and eating a fish. They believe catch and release fishing is simply the molestation of an animal for our own human pleasure. The truth is, PETA’s base view-point is hard to counter. We anglers are in fact disturbing a wild animal for our own enjoyable experience. But, as usual, there’s far more to the book than the first sentence and in the end, PETA will hopefully learn they are wrong.

What PETA is sorely missing in their logic is human nature. By design, we humans have to touch things to learn and respect nature. We cannot idly sit on the sidelines and just imagine catching a fish. We have to “do.” For us fly anglers, “doing” is fishing and fishing is touching nature. This experience builds value, and anything with value is worth saving. The mistake PETA is making is assuming that if we don’t touch nature, it will be better off. The fact is, those that never had the grand experience of seeing a wild trout up close would never miss it..even when it disappears from yet another dam or commercial culvert. Out of sight…out of mind. Wild trout actually need us anglers to survive in the modern world.

The concept of catch and release fishing is fairly basic. The name pretty much says it all, but there are some subtitles to the process that will greatly increase the survival rate of your fish…and really, that’s what catch and release is all about…ensuring a healthy population of wild fish for future generations. It’s a gift for other fly fishers. By releasing your fish properly, you’re smartly using and reinvesting in a limited resource for yourself and others to enjoy. Famous fly angler Lee Wulff said it right, “Game fish are too valuable to only be caught once.”

Although Leland promotes proper catch and release fly fishing in highly-pressured trout waters, we still love pan friend trout in the right location. Click the button to learn how to prepare a trout for a worthy meal.