How to release your unwanted trout catch unharmed.

Protecting the resource

Every year many Taupō trout die unnecessarily, victims of poor release techniques and rough handling. Due to regulations such as the minimum size limit, anglers must release some fish they catch. Anglers may also choose to release a fish if it is not of sufficient quality to eat.

Often these fish are kelts recovering from the rigours of spawning – if handled carefully they have a good chance of surviving, regaining condition and becoming a worthwhile catch for another angler.

To maintain a sustainable trout resource and ensure enjoyable angling opportunities we need to manage the fishery carefully. That is why stringent bag and size limits are in place to control the annual trout harvest. 

Releasing trout when fly fishing


  • Kick a fish onto the beach or let it flap around on the rocks or sand.


  • Bring the fish carefully to the edge and unhook it while it remains in the water.
  • Land the fish as quickly as possible to minimise stress and exhaustion.
  • If necessary, use a knotless net to control the fish and remove the hook using long-nosed pliers or forceps.
  • Use barbless hooks as it makes it much easier to release your fish.

If possible leave the fish in the water and unhook it without touching it.

Releasing trout when boat fishing


  • Squeeze a fish or rip the hook out.
  • Throw a fish back into the water.
  • Put your fingers in the gills of the fish.
  • Let the fish flap around on the floor of your boat.

The gills and internal organs are very easily damaged. A fish that is bleeding from the gills through being hooked or squeezed will usually swim off but will probably die within a few hours.


  • Lean over the side and use long-nosed pliers to twist the hook free while the fish is in the water.
  • If this isn’t possible, use a net with soft, knotless mesh and carefully lift the fish into the boat.
  • Leave the fish in the net and, without touching it, remove the hook using long-nosed pliers or forceps.
  • If you must handle the fish, hold it gently upside down with wet hands. Trout lie more quietly in this position.
  • Measure the fish in the net by laying it on a simple measuring board.
  • If necessary support the fish gently upright in the water until it swims away

If possible leave the fish in the water and unhook it without touching it.

Equipment needed to release a fish successfully

  • Measuring board.
  • Knotless net.
  • Long-nosed pliers or forceps.
  • Barbless hooks. You can squeeze the barb down with pliers.
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