For many years bait has been banned in catch-and-release trout fisheries owing to anticipated high rates of hooking mortality. Recent studies that have been conducted in streams have found relatively low rates of hooking mortality. The objective of this study was to quantify the rates of hooking and handling mortality of stocked trout that were caught by recreational anglers using the terminal tackle of their choice during a 2-d tournament for three consecutive years on a small stream in central Pennsylvania. Each year, we affixed T-bar anchor tags to more than 800 Brook Trout Salvelinus fontinalis, Brown Trout Salmo trutta, Rainbow Trout Oncorhynchus mykiss, and golden Rainbow Trout and stocked them in an 11-km stream reach. All of the tagged trout that were alive when they were checked in were eligible for cash prizes. After processing, the trout were monitored for 9 d in a hatchery. Anglers brought in 423–591 tagged trout each year. The rates for hooking and handling mortality among years ranged from 3.9% to 8.0%. Mortality of Rainbow Trout (7.4%) was the highest among the three species. The trout were caught on natural and manufactured baits (87.9%), artificial lures (10.8%), and flies (1.3%); mortality was not related to terminal tackle. Trout that had hooks left embedded in them or had blood in their holding container had the highest mortality. Time from capture to check-in, holding method, hook type, or hook size did not influence mortality. This study demonstrated low mortality of trout that were caught primarily with bait and subjected to more handling stress than they would normally experience in catch-and-release waters. We suggest that these results support the notion that bait fishing can be allowed without negative population-level effects in streams where regulations require that most or all angled trout are released.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Aquatic Science
- Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law