Because trout are coldwater fish their metabolisms are designed to function best at temperatures around 60 degrees. Furthermore, oxygen levels are greater at cooler water temperatures. Thus, it is not surprising how well salmonids fight when the water temps are in this range. Their bodies are at peak performance and there is plenty of oxygen to feed their muscles. When fought fairly and released properly they should have a very high survival rate. That means somebody else gets to enjoy the magic. It also helps to build a trophy fishery. It's very unlikely that any trophy trout, let's say 20 inches and up, has never been caught before. Proper release, which includes understanding the effects of water temperature, is the key to great sport fishing.
As the water temperature rises a trout's metabolism begins to put more demands on the fish than its system can easily handle. Essentially, their body is now out of tune and there is much less oxygen to help them maintain proper function.
This becomes more of a problem at 65 degrees and by 68 degrees some studies indicate significant hook mortality. By 70 degrees the chances of surviving catch and release are very low. Many trout will die at temps of 75 degrees or more whether they are hooked or not. The effect is like running on a very hot day with a tight shirt or vest hindering one's breathing. The body exerts more effort due to the heat, but can't get enough oxygen to the muscles, including the most important one, the heart. The body cannot regulate the effects of exertion without oxygen and death occurs. Here are two charts on temperature ranges during the summer of 2001. Notice how long the temperature stayed above 68 degrees.
ome would say that it
appears that the McKinley gauge, actually located at 4001, shows a
cooling river. Actually that is an artifact of where the gauge is
placed. In the summer months it is fairly shallow around its location
so there is a greater temperature fluctuation. This is good but does
not signal all clear. Notice that daytime water temperatures tend to
be higher at 4001 than Mio. Also, notice that it still stays above
65 for most of the summer. Finally, DNR SFR page 16 makes it clear -
tributaries and upwellings DO NOT OFFER relief.