Here’s a few simple tips on how to best hold a fish and get a great photograph, without harming the fish.
There’s a lot of debate right now about photographing fish. Like most topics that get blown out of proportion on the internet, this debate is riddled with sensationalized accusations and disinformation. I’ve written about holding fish for photographs but I thought a short video showing how simple and noninvasive it can be would be a big help.
First, I’d like to clarify my stance on the subject. When done properly, I do not see any harm in photographing a fish. Fish are injured by poor handling, not cameras. I have two serious problems with the ‘no photo’ argument. First, it simply doesn’t address the problem. If anglers are mishandling fish, they are doing so while landing them and unhooking them with or without a photo. Demonizing the camera does nothing to stop this and doesn’t save fish. What we should be doing is educating anglers on ethical fish handling. Secondly, the photograph is the bargain that makes catch-and-release fishing work. Whether you like it or not there are simply a lot of anglers who require proof of their catch. It’s much better to give them a photo than a corpse. Like any right minded over reaction the ‘no photo’ movement will generate (and is generating) push back. People will kill fish because of it. If you don’t believe me, see the 2016 U.S. Presidential contest.
We are much better off teaching anglers to pinch barbs, wet hands, revive fish and limit their exposure to air than we are demonizing photography.
In my experience the greatest danger in fish handling is panic. The average angler just needs to learn to calm down. When faced with a stubborn hook or an unruly fish, most anglers try to subdue the fish with force. This is the exact wrong reaction. It only panics the fish, making them struggle more. If you relax and keep the fish in the water, the fish will relax. Just watch how relaxed the fish in this video is. It works.
Lastly, all fish are not created equal. Some are more delicate than others and some species are more at risk. While I think it’s OK to lift a trout from the water briefly, the same thing doesn’t go for steelhead. The stakes are simply too high. What works for a trout in 50 degree water doesn’t work when the water temp is 70. A tarpon might seem tough but they are actually very fragile while a redfish or permit are surprisingly strong. Take time to know the fish you’re after and always ere on the side of caution.
Watch this video and see how simple it is to get a great photo of a fish and do no harm.