How to safely handle Steelhead; catch and release techniques for Steelhead Alley
If you intend to release your catches I suggest you carry a net with you. It is challenging to have the patience necessary to tail a Steelhead. Do not use a traditional trout net to land your Steelhead. Most of the migratory Rainbows you will encounter are between 22-26 inches in length; a trophy-sized fish is 30+ inches in length. A ten pound fish is not uncommon, and in the spring season the suckers regularly weigh close to that. It is unsightly and hard on Steelhead to fold unto itself in an undersized net. The net that I use can be found here. Scoop your Steelhead into the landing net head first; use a net with a deep bag. Bright, chrome Steelhead often have enough “go” left to jump out of the net. I recommend having the net in the water when the fish is coming your way–putting the net in the water close to the fish in a rapid dipping action will likely cause another run, or attempt at a run. Do not rush netting the fish and never chase a fish to net it.
After you have netted your fish bring it into shallow water, and remove the fly. Try to keep the fish wet & if it’s below 30 degrees Fahrenheit try to forgo a grip and grin photo; those temperatures can cause gills to freeze. I use hemostats to remove the fly. An example can be found here. When you pick up your fish for a picture, grab in front of the tail with one hand, and simultaneously cradle under the fish, behind the pectoral fins with your other hand. You do not need to squeeze the fish. If your fish flops and you lose your hold, try to guide the fish into the water or back into your net which is purposely placed below your fish and in the water. In all reality, you only want the picture to show people! Try to take it in while it is actually happening. Additionally, trauma to the fish will negatively affect it hours after it is released. When the fish is ready for release hold it upright, into or facing the current, and wait for it to take off. Your revived Steelhead should swim off with authority!
You can take dope photos of the fish in the water!
Check out this Northern Pike I caught on a Dahlberg Diver inspired Bunny Leech. After I snapped this photo I grabbed my pliers and released the fish.
Wire leaders! You never know when you might beat the statistic of 10,000 casts.
- PA Steelhead Association Fishing SurveyOriginally published August 2022 in West County News . . . as of March 2023 Ari Capotis declined re-nomination to the PSA Board of Directors. She currently serves as a general member. PA Steelhead Association Fishing Survey By Christopher Larson and Ariadne Capotis, PA Steelhead Association Board Members The PA Steelhead Association (PSA) sponsors a … Read more
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