Handling Trout

How to Hold a Trout (With 5 Tips for Proper Fish Handling)

Trout is one of the world’s most sought-after fish species loved by both conventional and fly anglers. Unfortunately, a trout is a more delicate fish compared to others. Requiring a bit of care if the plan is to release it. I’m not one of those guys that releases every fish I catch. Heck – a fresh walleye dinner is a mouth watering treat in my household. I mostly love the places that trout live and the relaxation that comes with pursing trout.

Trout are a delicate fish to handle. Unlike Bass they don’t have a strong jaw and they’re scales are small and thin. I recommend THREE things when handling trout:

  1. FAST, plan out the fight to quickly fight, net and record your catch.
  2. SOFT and WET, trout need to stay wet. This means hands, nets and shallows. Dragging a trout through a shallow gravel bar is a No-No.
  3. SUPPORT, Don’t squeeze or tail a trophy. Your wet hands should be under the fish. Your net should be big enough to support the trout without balling the fish up.

Science has confirmed that all fish species, including trout, can feel pain and fear. After all, being hauled and impaled through a lake or river can be terrifying and painful. So, in this article, we’ll show you how to hold a trout after catching it if your main goal is releasing it afterward.

How to Hold a Trout? 

Unlike hunting, most fishing techniques can be considered unethical killing. So if you’re doing it for sport, you have to be very careful. After all, it is very unfair to release a traumatized fish back into the water after mishandling it and have it fight for its life for sport. Plus, without proper handling tips, you may end up killing the fish without knowing it.

Some fish species, like trout, are fragile creatures that have handling requirements to guarantee their survival.

Hold a trout in the water
Hold a trout in the water

In fact, a temperature change when lifted off the water is not suitable for this type of fish. Therefore, you must take additional precautions when releasing the trout when the weather is hot. After all, they are vulnerable and can be affected by the increase in temperature. (source)

A successful catch and release project starts with properly handling the fish after catching it and removing the hook. When treated poorly, the chances of this species surviving reduce dramatically. Therefore, the best solution for dealing with trout is not touching it at all. But when handling it, there are a few crucial guidelines that every angler must follow. (source)

1)   Use a Floating Net to Handle the Trout

If it’s possible to release the trout without holding it in your hands or using any object, then you should do that. But if that’s not possible, you should be careful and never remove the trout from the water. Instead, you should handle it using a floating net and remove the fly and hook in its mouth. (source)

If you’re using a net, make sure it is wet before placing the trout in it. After all, a dry net can easily damage the trout’s slimy skin layer, leaving it exposed to bacteria and some viruses. Avoid hoisting it using the net as the threads can easily split its fins. Plus, the best net for holding trout should have rubber threads.

Remember, you’re using the net to hold the fish while removing the hook and not carrying it. It would be best to have a specialized net for handling these fish and the right tools for removing the hook and fly in its mouth.

Guide Tip: Fishpond sells what I think is the best net for the fly fisher. The Nomad Mid-Length Net has a soft net bag, floats, and the carbon fiber construction makes it light but still tough. Check current prices on Amazon with this link -> Fishpond Nomad Mid-Length Net

Plus, if removing the fly is impossible, then you may have to leave it in its mouth. A dry plastic net can easily damage the trout’s scales and slimy skin. (source)

2)   Never Handle the Trout with Dry Hands

As aforementioned, a trout has a slimy top skin layer that a dry net and dry hand can easily damage. So, if you have to handle the fish using your bare hands or net, make sure they are wet. The slime is there to protect the fish from illnesses.

Therefore, stripping it of its skin will expose the trout to numerous dangerous bacteria. (source)

Also, don’t insert your fingers in its mouth when holding it. Remember, trout has numerous pain receptors in its mouth, and inserting your fingers in it is unethical.

3)   Hold the Trout Correctly

When holding the fish, make sure you use a light grip; after all, it is a delicate creature, and squeezing it can result in its internal organs getting damaged. Holding it upside down or on its side can help calm it down and make it easier for you to remove the hook. But most importantly, if you’re holding the trout using your bare hands, make sure you work close to the water surface.

Any fish held on shallow water, the boat’s base, or on the dry ground can sustain some serious internal or external injuries. It is the main reason why you should never take this fish should never be taken to the beach if you plan to release it.

Plus, avoid holding it using its gills if you plan on releasing it. A considerable percentage of the fish handled by their gill can swim when released, but they will die within a short time. (source)

4)   Unhooking the Trout

How you remove the hook and fly after catching the fish can play a vital role in the survival of the fish. So to minimize injuries, you should always flatten the barbs on the standard hooks or use barb-less hooks. If the trout is hooked deep in its gills or throat, you should cut the line.

Make sure you cut it as near the fly as possible instead of pulling it out.

Remember, any fish released with a dry fly in its throat has higher survival chances than those injured while removing the hook. (source)

5)   Examine the Trout Before Releasing It

After removing the hook, you can examine it for signs of injuries and if it is strong enough to swim away. Remember, an exhausted trout cannot swim, and it may suffocate since it can’t swim to freshwater. So if you take some time to revive the trout, you can increase its chances of surviving.

Unfortunately, you cannot revive all species, so if it’s badly injured, then you should never release it. Instead, you should take it home and cook it for dinner. (source)


How Are You Supposed to Hold Trout?

If you don’t plan on eating the fish, you should try as much as possible to avoid carrying it in your bare hands. Your dry hands can eliminate the slimy coat on its skin, so make sure you wet your hands and the net you will use to hold it on the water surface.

Can I Hold the Trout in Its Mouth?

It would be best if you never placed your fingers in a trout’s mouth or gills. And while it’s okay to lip some fish, trout are delicate creatures, and inserting your fingers in its mouth can cause unnecessary problems. Plus, they have teeth damaged by unnecessary handling, reducing their likelihood of surviving.

Do Trout Have Sharp Teeth?

Yes, trout are predatory creatures that come equipped with many teeth. These fish have both needle-like teeth along their lower and upper jawlines and huge vomerine teeth on the roof of the mouth. These teeth are sharp and can harm your fingers when mishandled. Read more about trout teeth HERE

One More Cast

Trout are very delicate fish that many anglers love and respect. In fact, their popularity has contributed to them being sport fish that folks prefer releasing after catching them. But to increase their likelihood of surviving, you have to be very careful when dealing with them. Their chance of surviving after being released is determined by how you take care of them.

Are you looking for some great How To Fly Fish Articles? Checkout this list:

Hi David Humphries Owner of Guide Recommended. I love everything to do with fly fishing. Casting, Tying, YouTube, writing about it and even teaching. I’ve got a FREE video workshop teaching how to dry fly fish at this link How to Fly Fish


  1. Nicole Fotheringham, How to remove the sliminess of a trout? https://www.leaf.tv/articles/how-to-remove-the-sliminess-of-a-trout/ Accessed December 17, 2021
  2. New York Times staff, trout fishing: a sport with serious consequences, https://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/20/opinion/trout-fishing-a-sport-with-serious-consequences.html/ Accessed December 17, 2021
  3. Creative publishing editors, Fly fishing for trout in streams: a how-to guide, https://books.google.co.ke/books?id=c9GIRQSFqJYC&pg=PA166&dq=proper+fish+handling+tips:+trout&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjGwYmkzOf0AhWK2hQKHZ4xB3YQ6AF6BAgLEAI#v=onepage&q=proper%20fish%20handling%20tips%3A%20trout&f=false/ Accessed December 17, 2021
  4. Wikipedia contributor, trout, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trout#Trout_fishing/ Accessed December 17, 2021
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