Catching and Handling Numbers of Trout

Spring time is on its way with warmer temperatures and warmer water. It's the time when most anglers are ready to get back on the water from their hunting or work or whatever. It's a time that just beckons those of us that love to fish back to the water to wet a line. It's also a good time to get into a lot of trout as they start their migrations back into the shallower waters of the Laguna.

Here in South Padre Island the fish usually show up first along the color changes north of the Causeway as they work their way north to the flats. This is when anglers can catch a lot of trout of all sizes; however a lot of them will be too small to keep. Sometimes though they may be all keepers and you may want to release some in hopes of bigger ones. This is when it helps to know how to handle these smaller fish so as to not damage any more of them than is necessary.

Although small jig heads ( 1/0 or less) are usually sharper and easier to set, trout can and will swallow them more easily than they will the larger 3/0 size. So try a larger hook which will help in keeping the smaller ones off in the first place. This size hook size will usually hook the trout in the mouth around the lips instead of down in the throat. When fishing bait such as under a popping cork, use a #2 size treble instead of the smaller 6's and 8's like a lot of people do. I find that I catch just as many fish and kill fewer due to swallowing.

When landing the fish and it looks like it might be questionable try and not use a net. The landing net wipes off a lot of the trout's protective membrane or slime as most of us call it not to mention tearing up the fins. When using the hooks as described above the hook acts like a gaff and I lose very few fish from them coming off as I'm boating them. Some people think they are helping the fish by grabbing them with a towel; nothing could be further from the truth. A towel whether wet or dry will wipe off much more slime than will your hands. So don't use a towel to grab your fish.

When you grab the trout with your bare hands, hold them around the back of the head and mash in on the gills so as to not get your fingers in the gills. Squeezing them on the outside of the gill plates helps you to hold the fish as well as making the fish open his mouth so you can remove the hook a lot more easily and quickly.

The faster you can remove the hook and get the fish back into the water the more chance of survival for that fish. Even if you have to tear up the mouth a little to get the hook out, time is more important than trying to not hurt the fish. The longer the fish is out of the water the more prone to shock setting in and the fish will not breath when you finally do put it back in the water and thus will die as it drifts off.

I don't recommend this technique for all fish such as mangrove snappers, but it does work well with flounder, kingfish, bonito, and other fish that don't have sharp gill plates such as snook and redfish. The best way to handle the fish is to not handle them at all. If you can get them to the boat and remove the hook with your needle nose pliers without taking the fish from the water is ultimately the best way to remove the hook and set the fish free.

Skipper Ray is a freelance writer and fishing guide in South Padre Island, Texas
where he owns and operate Island Outfitters. Call: 956-943-2798 or Email

Fishing Articles by Skipper Ray

Blind Casting the Flats
Catching and Handling Numbers of Trout
Fishing Guides Perspective
Effective Blind Casting on the Fly
Line Management Techniques
Lures of Choice for the Fall Season
More Tec Tips - King Mackerel
New Trout Techniques
Ready at the Rod
Spring is in the Air
Tarpon Techniques
Tech Tips - "Donít Give Up"
Tech Tips - Itís a Drag
The Ladies Have More Fun
The Chosen One
The "Ibis" Built by Newwater Boatworks
The Old Gold Spoon
Time to Fish Free
It's Red Fishing Time in South Padre
Trout Fishing the Lower Laguna Madre
Trout on Topwater Flies
Wading the Lower Laguna Madre

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