Having a trout fishing destination within 10 minutes of home is one advantage of living in Payson. Assuming the water continues to cool and water conditions are right, the Green Valley lakes are scheduled for their first trout stocking the week of Oct. 21.
In addition, bluegills and crappies have been cooperative of late especially in lakes 2 and 3. I’ve been doing a little better with them in the afternoon. I suspect they might be deeper and outside of my casting range earlier in the day.
Regardless of what I catch, I almost always release the fish back to the lake. This changes if I hook a fish too deeply and I know the fish will not survive. Fly-fishing with barbless hooks fortunately makes that a rare occurrence.
I appreciate and support the fact that many folks prefer to keep their catch. I like knowing that if I catch some fish and release them carefully, that others will get the enjoyment of catching those fish again.
My biggest fish to date at Green Valley lakes was a fish I estimated to be about 4 pounds and I got a quick measurement of it while it was in the water of just over 22 inches! That was back in January 2015.
That fish fought hard and when I was ready to release it, the fish could not swim out of my net. I got down on the ground and moved the fish forward and backward several times while gently holding it in an upright position. After a couple minutes, the fish got its energy back and swam off.
A month later, I read in the Roundup that a 22-inch, 4-pound rainbow was caught and its photo was in the paper. I was happy that fish could give another angler the same thrill it gave me.
If you return your fish after you catch them, there are some tips that will increase the likelihood of long-term survival for the fish. Of the fish in the Green Valley lakes, the trout are the most delicate and often need more care.
A barbless hook helps a lot. I also try hard to land them in a net and keep them in the water if possible. I would say that about 70 percent of my fish release themselves in the net with a barbless hook and I never have to touch them to release.
If I do have to work with them a bit to unhook them, I use hemostats to undo the hook and minimize how much I touch them. The slime on a fish is a very important layer to protect them against disease and infection. When that is compromised, they often will die. If I do have to touch them I wet my hands to help retain the slime on the fish.
Using a rag to hold a fish while you work on unhooking the fish will take the slime off the fish, and it will likely die soon. If that is the only way for you to release the fish, please consider just keeping the fish.
While crappies, bluegills, and bass seem to do fine with an easy toss back into the water, trout often will turn belly up. When I release a trout I want to be sure that it is able to remain upright and swim off on its own. A net works for this purpose as you can maintain control of the fish while you move it gently forward and backward to get water and dissolved oxygen working through the gills. If the fish starts to go belly up, then you should hold it gently in an upright position while you revive it. It will let you know when it is ready to swim off on its own. If it can’t, consider keeping the fish.
Hooks deep in the throat are another problem that if handled properly can still result in a successful release. It has been a long time since I fished for trout with bait, but when I fish with my younger grandkids, mealworms are our ticket for success with crappies and bluegills. If a fish swallows the hook, I don’t even attempt to pull it out. I cut the line as close to the mouth as possible and quickly release the fish.
Bass and crappies have their own handy mechanism for effective angler release. When you grab a crappie or bass by the lower lip, it goes limp and allows for easy removal of the hook. Bluegills are a bit more challenging with their formidable fins, but with care those fins can be gently pushed down and with a gentle hold with as little contact with the sides of the fish as possible to reduce slime removal, the hook can be removed from them too.
To me, fish are too valuable of a resource to catch only once. With care, many anglers can enjoy catching that fish again.