The Wyoming Game and Fish asks anglers to adjust fishing practices during the hottest stretch of summer. High temperatures and drought conditions across the state have led to rivers and streams flowing with less water at a warmer temperature, which negatively impacts fish survival–especially Wyoming’s trout.

“It’s that time of year when the temperatures are high and water flows are low. Together, that can cause water temperatures to get high enough to be lethal to trout,” said Alan Osterland, fish division chief. “Warm water also holds less oxygen which can stress not only trout, but also all fish.” 

As water temperatures approach 70 degrees, the chance for any fish species to survive being caught and released drops. 

Trout survival is reduced greatly by prolonged exposure to water temperatures greater than 75 degrees Fahrenheit, and even brief exposure to temperatures above 80 degrees kills.

Also, fish are more prone to stress in low-oxygen warm water, which weakens a fish’s ability to recover from being caught. 

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The Fish and Game urges anglers to adjust their practices so more fish survive the heat.

“As water temperatures increase, anglers should monitor water temps while fishing. When water temperature hits 70 degrees, we recommended that anglers should stop catching and releasing fish,” Osterland said. “Practice self-restraint to help fish survive.”

The Game and Fish asks all anglers practicing catch and release to consider the following:

  • Fish early in the morning while the water temperature is cooler.
  • Carry a pocket thermometer to monitor the water temperature.
  • If the water temperature is at or above 65 degrees, consider keeping what you catch within the regulations. If the temperature is 70 degrees or higher, do not attempt to catch and release fish.
  • As water temperature increases, using the proper techniques to catch and release a fish become increasingly more important to help ensure the fish has a chance to survive:
  • Play and land fish as rapidly as possible to reduce exhaustion stress.  
  • Keep the fish in the water as much as possible.
  • Do not squeeze the fish or place fingers in the gills.
  • Remove the hook gently. If hooked deeply, cut the leader.
  • Flies and lures are recommended whenever many fish are being caught and released.
  • Barbless hooks allow easier hook removal.
  • If a fish is exhausted and cannot hold itself upright, and if regulations allow, consider having it for supper because the fish has a poor chance of surviving.

These are not new regulations, just recommendations to assist with the conservation of the fishery resource Osterland said. If water temperatures are too high, consider escaping the heat with a trip to another top-notch high country fishery where it’s cooler.

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