Q Do you support catch-and-release rules during periods of hot weather, as we experienced this summer?
Mark Adams, via email
AI’m usually a great believer in catch-andrelease but not in very hot weather. There’s no doubt that during this summer the trout in our rivers, lakes and small fisheries, in particular, would have suffered terribly. Unfortunately, not only did we have extreme heat, but it remained hot for months, with no respite for the trout. Many anglers who fish on northern rivers (including me) decided to leave the trout alone – with low oxygen levels, the fish would have struggled to recover after release. Commercial fisheries, on the other hand, depend on anglers coming through the gates to remain viable. At what I hoped was the peak of the heatwave (unfortunately it was to get worse), I was invited to a fishery I hadn’t visited before. My expectations were low and I didn’t expect to catch much. The trout were obviously stressed with some fish cruising close to the bank and many jumping in the middle of the lake. However, some trout in the cooler, deeper water were still feeding. I suppose some fish are more tolerant of heat than others. By fishing the deepest part of the lake, I began to catch healthy-looking trout. They were returned, but I admit I felt guilty. It made me think about what I would do if I managed the fishery. I would want to show more understanding than one angler. He was pulling a lure at a steady pace and within the hour began to complain. An hour later he stormed off, shouting that the place had “gone to the dogs” and that he would never be back. Just the publicity a struggling owner needs. With half the number of anglers visiting than normal, I wondered if more rods would be tempted if the cost of a day-ticket was reduced significantly and the fall in income made up by having a kill-all policy, paid for by a standard fee per fish? The anglers could then judge how much they were willing to pay for their day’s sport while unsuccessful anglers would have a day out for little cost. I’d like to hear the views of a few fishery owners. Cooler weather and light rain tempted me to travel to another water I’d not fished before. It was a perfect day, yet I was one of only two people there. It was great to see trout rising and I had a fantastic afternoon’s sport with a small dry-fly. The trout were smaller than I expected, but this might suggest that smaller, fitter trout are more capable of tolerating heat – and they were beautiful rainbows. What that day showed, however, is that after a break from their sport many anglers can get into the habit of not going fishing. I hope those who stayed away during the heatwave have saved up their “brownie points” and will make up for their absence when conditions improve.
If you plan to return your fish in a prolonged hot spell, keep them in the net to gauge their recovery. If they are suffering, put them out of their misery.