New Fish Handling Best Practices

July 2, 2024 By: Spencer Durrant

As part of their annual No Fish Dry July initiative, the folks over at Keep Fish Wet (KFW) have released new best practices for handling trout.

Of particular note is new research that says the long-held belief that trout fishing should stop at 68 Fahrenheit is incorrect. New research from Jamie Madden, a who has her Master’s from Carleton University, worked with Dr. Steve Cooke and Dr. Andy Danylchuk, to show that rainbow, brook, steelhead, and cutthroat begin to experience adverse effects from fishing when the water hits 61 Fahrenheit. Brown trout can handle temperatures up to about 66 Fahrenheit, according to the study.

KFW says that this topic is “not as simple as recommending a single ‘stop fishing here’ temperature. There are nuances. So instead, Keep Fish Wet is coining the phrase ‘angling threshold’ – the water temperature at which the chance of a fish dying due to the combined impacts of water temperature and angling goes from being low and steady to rising exponentially.”

KFW doesn’t say you should immediately stop fishing at that 61F mark for rainbow, brook, steelhead, or cutthroat trout, however.

“Keep Fish Wet believes this (61F) is the water temperature at which anglers need to start paying attention to how these species respond to fishing.”

This is a big shift for the community to make, especially when famous fisheries continuously experience closures due to water temperatures exceeding that 68F threshold. Stopping guide trips, for example, at 61F likely presents a bigger logistical problem for all involved.

It’s important to note, however, that the study’s author, Madden, admits that there’s a dearth of literature on this subject, and the industry needs “more purposeful research with the aim to determine or confirm species-specific best practices on water temperature…There also needs to be much more research on the effects of water temperature, angling induced exercise, and other elements of the angling event, such as air exposure, since the potential impacts from angling are cumulative.”

You can read the full writeup of the study here.