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Fish Fighting and Release Tips for Warm Water Temps

The water is getting warm as these hot summer afternoons wear on in the Yakima River. Fighting trout with temperatures in excess of 70 degrees is hard on them due to the lower dissolved oxygen content of warmer water.  Fast moving riffles and safe handling help, but planning to be off the water during that time is the most beneficial thing we can do to keep these trout healthy.  We have been taking water temperatures using stream thermometers throughout the day, and temperatures in the Lower canyon have been topping out in the 68-69 degree range over the past week.  With daily air temperatures exceeding 100 degrees in the forecast, it's likely to get warmer, and we recommend a plan to fish the early morning and be off the river by about 2 pm for this week and the upcoming weekend.  Another option is to fish the upper sections of the Yakima where the water temperatures remain cooler.  We're hopeful that the weather will cool into the 80's by next week.

In addition, we wanted to share a few of the precautions we take and encourage others to make similar adjustments if it makes sense or their schedule allows it.  Also, check out this video on how to properly pinch a barb.

Fish Fighting and Release Tips for Warm Water Temps

  • Play them quick.  Horse the fish in and if you lose it in the process.... perfect.
  • Don’t take them out of the water, and you should never have to revive them.  I can’t remember the last time I had to revive a trout. 
  • Pinch your barbs down flat.  Then when you think they are flat, pinch them again till your fingers hurt!  This is essential.  Too many anglers don’t pinch them down enough.  If you do it right, you should be able to push that hook into your shirt material and pull it out without a fuss.  Pay special attention to this.  The Game Wardens will do this as a test when they check your tackle. Bring the fish in quickly.  
  • Use one fly setups.  Two fly rigs tangle fish, foul hook them, and can lead to extended handling times.  Each time a fish gets tangled in the net it requires more handling time.  If you are catching most of your fish on one fly in particular, then just fish one fly!  You will tangle less, fish more, and likely catch more trout anyway. 
  • Long line release.  This is great once you have caught a handful of trout.  Just give them some slack, let them unhook themselves.  The faster that trout gets back to feeding the bigger and stronger it will be in the future. 
  • Cut the fly off  if hooked deep (this doesn't mean you will lose it and it likely won't stay in the fish beyond the net).  I probably lose more flies on fish than branches in August.  Use scissor clamps, snip the fly if it is hooked deep, “swish” the fish around in the net.  If you followed Tip #3 the fly should float right out.  No trauma to the fish, and you get your fly back!  I cut the fly off regularly.  It is a good idea to dry it out and retie it anyway, just snip it with scissor clamps immediately.  They are so much easier to handle when there is no line attached. 
  • If you are having trouble unhooking the fish, give it a break.  Put it back in the water and let it breath.  Sometimes it will unhook itself.  Don’t force anything. 
  • A picture isn’t worth killing a fish.  You will notice on our blog and website that there are very few fish ever removed from the water by Red’s.  We believe in preserving these fisheries so that they can be an absolute top quality experience for EVERYONE!  Not just our customers and guests.  
  • We handle fish everyday with the public, future, and our children in mind.  We want the Yakima River and all our waters to be the absolute best fisheries they can be. Don’t touch small trout.  Leave them in the water, grab the fly, turn the hook, say goodbye.
  •  If you absolutely have to touch a trout, wet your hands first.  Dry hands kill fish later on after they get infections.
  • Don’t let fish tangle in your tippet.  Sometimes I won’t net fish if I feel like they are going to tangle badly.  Tippet cuts the soft sensitive skin of a trout.  If you suspect the trout is going to wrap up in the line when netted, try to release it without using the net.  If it does wrap up, put it back in the water immediately so it can breath and possibly unwrap itself. If you absolutely have to touch a trout, hold it upside down and it will hold still. 
  • If you want a picture, get one of the fish laying in the net or a picture of somebody “hooked up and gettin’ the bend.


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