Pro Tip: How to Correctly Use a Stomach Pump on Trout

Here’s a useful video from Steve Galletta, of Bighorn Angler Fly Shop & Lodge in Fort Smith, Montana. You don’t see many anglers using a stomach pump, but it can provide great information about what fish are eating, especially if there are lots of bugs in the water at the same time.

Some folks worry that “gastric lavage” will hurt the trout, but there is no evidence that, of you use the right tools and perform the procedure carefully, it causes any lasting damage.

Here’s Steve’s instructions:

The anglers that know how to use a stomach pump use them religiously, and for others that have not seen it done before can find it hard to understand and are often intimidated to try it. When done right it doesn’t hurt the fish and is a very quick process. I will try to explain the steps here to go along with the video. I have found that trout in the 13″ – 17″ range are the easiest to pump and rainbows tend to be easier to pump than browns, since in my experience their stomach cavity seems easier to find.

  1. Fill the stomach pump full of water by slightly depressing the rubber ball.
  2. Insert the stomach pump into the trout – the key here is to slowly insert the tube into the trout’s mouth and push it straight in until you feel a small opening. This opening is the stomach cavity. After inserting the tube into the trout’s mouth you will feel pressure against the tube until you reach the stomach cavity. Stop there.
  3. At this point slightly compress the rubber ball so a portion of the water leaves the tube and is deposited in the trout’s stomach and then quickly decompress the ball again to suck the contents up into the tube. This should only take a second. The key here is to slightly depress the rubber ball, do not squeeze the ball completely or it will be more difficult to suck the stomach contents back up into the tube because you will loose the pressure in the tube.
  4. Remove the tube from the fish
  5. Squirt stomach pump contents out into your hand and evaluate what you see
  6. Match your imitation accordingly

For more information, check out his blog post on the subject.

5 thoughts on “Pro Tip: How to Correctly Use a Stomach Pump on Trout”

  1. In order to catch a fish to use the stomach pump haven’t you already sort of solved the puzzle …. after all you just caught a fish! It seems to me the knowledge gained from pumping a trout’s stomach are not worth the rewards.

  2. I use a stomach pump frequently when guiding to keep up with changing stages of the hatch etc.. That’s great instruction from Steve on how to use the pump and I would like to add that you should ONLY use one on fish 12″ or bigger because it can easily damage the internal organs of smaller fish. I have also found that it often helps to hold the fish upside down. It seems to calm them somehow. Good video Steve, thanks for sharing!

  3. Although I owned a throat, or “Stomach” pump for several years, I couldn’t work up the nerve to use it because I was concerned about hurting the fish.

    On a recent fishing trip, I caught a nice 17” Brown Trout and took a leap of faith – it wasn’t as hard as I thought, and it yielded very useful information. In this case, there were intact Caddis Larvae, adult midges, and a small amount of light Cahill’s. The caddis larvae were in a particular color configuration that I had in my fly box. The fishing was hot for the next hour!

    I did make the mistake on an earlier fish of depressing the bulb fully, and it didn’t net any results. I will definitely be using this technique again, as long as the fish is longer than 12”.

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