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How to Catch and Release Fish
How to Catch and Release Fish
Check out the Releasing Fish Safely video (Text Version​) for more tips on safe release.

​Many Colorado waters have specific regulations related to particular species and what you can use to catch them. For example, catch and release fishing, whether by personal preference or mandated by regulation, has created a number of controversies in the past. One that has surfaced in recent years concerns the way people handle fish, especially big ones, prior to putting them back in the water.

There are several steps anglers can take when they release a fish that will help ensure that the fish survives being caught and therefore limit the angler's impact on the fishery. 

  • When fighting a fish, try to land it quickly. Larger fish played to exhaustion are extremely hard to revive and much more likely to die after being released. 

  • Make sure that your fishing tackle is strong enough to handle the job of landing the fish. This means a medium to heavy fishing rod, a sturdy reel and a strong line. The le​​ss a fish is handled, the better its chances of survival. 

  • Hooks can often be removed while the fish remains in the water. Many anglers believe this is easier when the barbs have been mashed down, especially on treble hooks.  

  • Hold the fish under the belly facing into the current until it swims away on its own. In lakes, hold the fish the same way, and move it forward and backward to get water going through the gills. Take the time to fully revive the fish. 

  • If a fish must be handled, use a landing net with rubber coated netting. If you want to take pictures, lift the fish from the net with one hand under the head and the other supporting the belly. Don’t keep the fish out of the water longer than a minute. If you need more time, lower the fish back into the water until the photographer is ready. 

  • If a fish is hooked deeply in the throat or gills, cut the line as close to the hooks as possible without pulling or yanking on the line.

​Following these steps will greatly increase the chance that a fish will survive to fight another day.