With the reintroduction of the Gila trout to the East Verde River, recreational anglers who visit the area can catch a new trout species.

This was once their natural habitat and long ago they vanished from a number of tributary streams in the Verde watershed. Now, they are back and are being stocked regularly into the East Verde.

This stream is a popular destination for anglers and most of the trout caught will end up in the frying pan or on the grill, which is very much a part of the weekend camping experience.

A fresh trout baked on the grill wrapped with a strip of bacon seasoned with an onion is truly fine cuisine. I enjoy eating fish almost as much as I do catching them.

This new resident fish, the Gila trout, is great fun to catch on a fly rod or ultra light spinning gear. With the weekly stockings, these trout are starting to inhabit various spots away from the popular crossings, which allows anglers to hike the stream and catch a few Gilas.

There are a few locations on the East Verde where anglers seldom trek that might provide a spawning area for any trout that may make it after the recreational fishing season.

Why not catch and release this golden beauty with the hope it may make it to the next spawning season or that someone else can enjoy the thrill of catching a trout?

Likewise, there are a few small creeks under the Rim which also harbor the Gila trout that may be open to catch and release fishing within a year or two. Several other tributary streams in the Verde watershed could become Gila trout habitat.

Over the years, I have seen all kinds of catch and release practices used by anglers that vary from excellent survival rate to no way that fish will live. It would be best to put that trout in the creel.

Here are some simple guidelines that may help when you practice catch and release.

Don’t play the fish too long

Let the rod fight the fish and quickly get in position to release the trout back into the water. Getting in position means to be at the water’s edge.

A delayed mortality in trout occurs from a buildup of lactic acid if the fish is fought too long and it doesn’t recover from near exhaustion.

Have camera ready

The camera needs to be out of the case, with only the click of a button needed for the visual memory. A wild trout should only leave the water for a minimum amount of time, less airtime for a fish dictates improved survival rate.

A maximum of 10 seconds out of the water for that fish should always be the goal. Thirty seconds out of the water correlates to only 62% survival rate.

Immerse hands in water first

If I am going to release the fish, I always immerse my hands in the water before gently removing the fly or lure with a needle nose forceps or pliers.

Lifting and dangling that fish out of the water is not a good method to release a trout. Go to the fish, which may require the angler to bend over and very likely get your feet wet. By wetting your hands before touching the fish, the slime layer on a trout’s scales will more likely stay in place, which also reduces the mortality rate.

For those who use a net, then a rubber coated landing net is a must that also reduces the harm to the slime layer on a fish. When a fish is pulled to shore and bounced on the gravel, it should always go in the creel.

Cut line for deep hook set

If there is a deep hook set, then cutting the line is the best alternative where the hook may pass through the digestive system, eventually dissolve, or possibly even come out.

I have caught many trout with hooks deep in their mouth or gullet that were doing quite well and willing to strike a fly or lure again.

In many cases, it is possible to keep the trout in the water for the entire process of a photo or removing a hook.

This weekend enjoy angling for the new fish in the water, the Gila trout.

Take a friend fishing in the Rim Country, God’s creation.

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