Tips & Skills – Catch and Release Techniques  

Noah Parker, Land of Enchantment Guides

Releasing the fish we catch is the best way we have for preserving a quality fishery. If you want to have good fishing tomorrow, please release the fish you catch today. Just because a fish swims away after it leaves your hands, does not necessarily mean it is in good shape. A fish that is carelessly handled and then released, may die later the same day or may be so weakened and injured that it dies a week or month later. It takes care and caring to properly catch and release a fish so it stays healthy. Here are some guidelines to try and follow:

  • When holding a fish, either for a picture or to look at it, always use both hands.
  • Cradle the fish by cupping your hands under the forward part of the body and the tail. (Don’t pick a fish up with one hand in the middle as you see in so many photos; it hurts the fish – especially larger ones picked up this way).dont-hold
  • Where applicable, use barbless hooks. An easily removed hook reduces the amount of fish handling. You can pinch the barbs down with a pair of pliers or hemostats.
  • Try and land your fish as quickly as possible. The longer you play a fish, the more exhausted it becomes and the less likely it is to recover.
  • Before handling a fish and/or taking it out of a net, wet both of your hands. This helps prevent the removal of a fish’s protective
  • Don’t squeeze the fish; don’t put your fingers in its mouth, gills or on its eyes; don’t grab its tail and lift it out of the water.
  • Back the hook out carefully. If it helps or is needed, use a suitable tool such as forceps, pliers, or a de-hooking/catch and release tool.
  • Try and keep the fish in the water at all times. If you want to take a photo of the fish out of the water, get everything set up, then lift the fish up and snap the photo quickly. Put the fish back in the water immediately after you take the picture. Try and limit the fish’s time out of the water to less than 15 seconds.
  • Don’t let it flop around out of the water, on the ground or in the bottom of a boat. If possible, un-hook your fish and take any photos of it over or better yet, in the water – those pictures of a trout lying in the grass are not a good idea and very harmful to the fish.
  • If the fish is hooked any deeper than the lips or in a part of the mouth where you can un-hook it easily, clip off the fly and let the fish go leaving the fly in it (the hook will rust out quickly).
  • If a fish rolls over on its side or back, it’s exhausted. You will need to give the fish special care (see the next section).
  • If your fish is exhausted and appears weak and overly tired, you will need to revive it. To revive a fish, grasp it gently in front of the tail and just behind the gills by cupping your hand underneath the belly. Move it gently back and forth so water works through its gills, providing it oxygen. Don’t let go the first time the fish tries to swim away; let it go the second time, making sure it is revived. Try and do this in an area where there isn’t much current. If need be, you can block the current with your upstream leg and revive your fish in the quiet water behind it.
  • Don’t dump a fish into fast water. It can start to tumble and not be able to get to a safe location where it can rest and breathe. Try and let it go gently in calmer water so it can swim away easily, at its own pace and find some shelter.

Thank you in advance for releasing the fish you catch. We owe these fish quite a debt of gratitude for letting us catch them and providing us with such enjoyment. The least we can do in return is to release them correctly and try to guarantee their continued survival and health.

Fly Fishing Clinics in Sipapu 

Van Beacham, owner of the Solitary Angler, and his staff of certified instructors, are conducting free “quick start” fly-fishing classes every Saturday from 10:30-11:30 am. Sipapu is located just 20 miles southeast of Taos on Highway 518. The Río Pueblo flowing through the heart of the resort contains “some of the best small pocket water fishing in the state.” The resort also offers a private, stocked fishing pond for all visitors to enjoy for free. The state Department of Game and Fish typically stock the pond every other week.

414“Over the years I have have developed a unique technique that makes learning to fly cast fast, fun and easy,” Beacham says. “Students will learn how to read water, make fly selections, use the right casting techniques and to fly fish small streams like we have in New Mexico.”

Students are encouraged to bring their own equipment although fly rods and reels will be available to borrow at no charge. However, a New Mexico fishing license is required.

After the free fly-fishing class, the Solitary Angler will offer an afternoon Small Stream Clinic, and Beacham expects to offer private tours throughout the summer as well.

Reservations for the free class and to borrow equipment, or additional tours may be made by calling (800) 587-2240 or at

Cowles Fishing Reopens 

403Cowles Ponds in the upper Pecos Canyon 20 miles north of Pecos are open to the public again, featuring a ramp and path designed for people who use wheelchairs. The ponds were closed The ponds were closed for improvements, which included draining and dredging to improve fish habitat. The project cost more than $380,000 and was paid for with funding from the state Habitat Stamp program, federal money and local donations. The ponds are periodically stocked with rainbow trout by the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. One 12-foot-deep pond was built for children under age 11 and people with disabilities. The other pool is 8 feet deep and available to all anglers with a fishing license.