Catch and Release

Catch and Release, an investment in your fishing future.

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How to Catch and Release Your Fish
An Investment in Your Fishing Future

Wild and hatchery steelhead, and salmon are commonly found together in many Oregon rivers. Hatchery trout may be found with wild trout in many lakes. Hatchery-reared fish are used to supplement natural production or compensate for lost production (e.g. dams). However, catching and keeping a wild fish has a greater effect on a fish population than catching and keeping a hatchery fish. Here's why:
Hatchery fish are protected in a hatchery pond until adulthood, while wild fish must survive stream disturbances and predators to become adults. Adult wild fish that survive are the strongest and most cunning of their kind. Also, wild fish are much more likely to spawn in a stream than hatchery fish. So, returning wild fish to the

stream allows those fish to spawn and pass on their ability to survive to their offspring - enabling the wild fish population to remain healthy and grow.  In most Oregon waters wild fish are protected by law and must be released unharmed.

Hooking and Playing the Fish

  1. Use hooks that are barbless to reduce trauma.
  2. Decide to release a fish as soon as you determine it is wild.
  3. Set the hook immediately. Try to prevent a fish from swallowing your fly.
  4. Land your quarry quickly; don't play it to exhaustion.
  5. Don't beach a wild fish or let it flop around on the bank.
    6. If a picture is to be taken, get the fish back into the water quickly as possible.
    7.  Always keep release tools handy.

Handling Your Catch
1. Leave the fish in the water (if possible) and don't handle it. Use a tool to remove the hook.
2. Keep the fish from thrashing.
3. Net your catch only if you cannot control it any other way. Rubber-bag nets remove less slime and fewer scales that mesh nets.
4. When you must handle a fish:
  • Use a wet glove or rag to hold it.
  • Turn a fish on its back or cover its eyes with a wet towel to calm it.
  • Don't put your fingers in the eyes or gills of your catch.
  • Avoid removing mucous or scales.

Get the fish back in the water as quickly as possible.
Releasing the Fish

  1. Place the fish in the water gently, supporting its mid-section and tail until it swims away.
  2. Resuscitate an exhausted fish by moving it back and forth or tow it gently alongside the boat to force water through its gills.
  3. Watch your quarry to make sure it swims away. If it doesn't, recover the fish and try again.

Remember, a released fish has an excellent chance of survival when handled carefully and correctly.


Wild Fish: All fins with straight, branched fin rays and adipose fin is intact.
Hatchery Fish: have had adipose fin, and possibly the ventral, or pectoral fins clipped off at the hatchery. To confirm hatchery origin, look for the healed fin clip.


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