Echo Fly Fishing launches campaign to reduce post-catch mortality

by Tyler Allen

Fish need water. Of course they do.

Yet according to Echo Fly Fishing, there are times when this fact could use underlining.

The company’s newly developed “Fish Need Water” initiative educates about best practices to minimize post-catch mortality. Handling the fish only when necessary, minimizing the duration of the angling event, and keeping gills below the waterline can dramatically improve a fish’s chance at survival. And at times like this, when water levels are already too low and stream temperatures are often too high, Echo says it’s imperative to communicate the challenges faced by angled fish and the ways to mitigate the risk they face, especially when their lives are literally in our hands.

“We could have sat back and done nothing,” said Echo Founder Tim Rajeff. “But we decided to do something.”

“There are no ivory towers or high horses, only a deep love for both fish and fishing.”

As part of the Fish Need Water campaign, Echo has pledged to only post and publicize photos of fish that remain subsurface post-catch. Social media outlets have become sounding boards for a growing subset of anglers who see fly fishing as part and parcel to watershed stewardship. Whether a fish calls a freestone creek, sandy flat, or cement pond home, only wet gills will grace Echo’s website, Instagram, Facebook, blog and catalog pages. Photos of fish above water posted by Echo in the past will remain as a testament to humans’ propensity to err. There are no ivory towers or high horses, only a deep love for both fish and fishing.

Post-catch fish mortality is influenced by several factors, the most impactful being air exposure, water temperature and duration of an angling event. In one study, angled rainbow trout survival rates dropped from 88% for fish allowed to remain below the water’s surface to 62% for fish exposed to air for 30 seconds. After 60 seconds of exposure, rates plummet to 28%.

Rising water temperatures make current climatic trends particularly damning for Western fisheries. Salmonids, the image of stream health and vivacity, tend to thrive in a fairly narrow temperature range and undergo behavioral and physical changes when water exceeds that spread. And then there are dams, predators, poaching and disease that also hinder survival. With these challenges, Echo recognizes that when possible, we should do what we can to keep more fish alive.

Catch and release fishing has a history of being practiced in earnest only by “serious” anglers. Yet fishing culture has begun to shift toward a more conservation-oriented ethic, due in part to collapsing fisheries throughout the Pacific Rim. Now a significant proportion of anglers — many of whom chase the West Coast’s anadromous species — are vowing to respect, care for, and release any wild fish that finds its way to human hands.

“Supporting our local fisheries isn’t new,” said Rajeff. “Grassroots efforts to only share photos of fish with their gills in the water are. This simple gesture will help protect a special resource we often take for granted. Fish need water.”


Tyler Allen is the Conservation Program Manager for Echo Fly Fishing Company. Based on Mount Hood, he owns and operates a stewardship-oriented fly fishing guide service, Henry Creek High Country Guides. He can be found at his cabin fixing things that aren’t broken or traveling the Pacific Northwest with his fiancée, Lauren. For more information, visit www.FishNeedH2o.org.


Featured image: A wild brown trout being released in northern Utah – Matt Guymon

Read the Fall 2015 issue of freshwater Magazine


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