How To Hold Fish For A Photo: Video

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Photo by Louis Cahill

Photo by Louis Cahill

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.

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16 thoughts on “How To Hold Fish For A Photo: Video

  1. Pingback: How To Hold Fish For A Photo: Gink and Gasoline | A Fly Rod in My Sea Bag

  2. Great post. I am so sick of self-righteous anglers on the internet leaving nasty, melodramatic comments on photographs of happy fisherman with their catch. I think most anglers do their level best to care for the fish prior to releasing it and if they clearly are mishandling fish we should be gently suggesting better techniques while congratulating them on their great catch. Thanks for the post! I think there are some great suggestions here.

  3. Good pointers (isn’t it obvious by the way?).

    What I don’t understand is why most (all?) people hold the fish with their arm stretched out? This looks very awkward and looks like the angler is trying to make the fish look bigger? Why not hold it relaxed & comfortable slightly in from of your body in a angle to give a nice natural look?

  4. Good video! I also would like to add that I am enjoying the whole keepemwet movement going on. I myself have been trying to just keep fish in the water (or barely out of) when taking photographs. It is a fun and challenging aspect to the sport. Thanks for putting this article and video together as I believe everyone should know proper catch and release.

  5. Thanks for posting that. As yourself, I have no problem with taking of photographs., but do the rough handling of fish. The internet and fishing forums are plastered with the one handed selfies.

  6. My pet peeve is not about the proper or improper handling of trout- specifically (although of primary importance). It’s the “grip and grin” common practice of shoving a fish forward at full arm length, toward the camera, creating a “leviathan.” I view this time and again! What,… this sells guide trips? Oh,… I get it now! I’ve been at this game for sixty years, and witness it being pervasive over the last twenty years. Please, keep your arms close, the fish wet, and the photo aesthetic. Not too much to ask,… and considerate, too.

    • I think it’s a lot to ask that folks consider your personal opinion when they take their own photos. Let’s agree to take care of the fish and leave aesthetics out of it.

  7. “The times are a changin”.

    With global warming becoming a reality, it is having an impact on our sport and it’s time to learn some new fish handling and photographic techniques. Plain and simple. The reason behind it is no different than any other protection of fish species we have already created. There is new science out about mortality rates of oxygen deprived fish in warmer waters and we owe it to ourselves and our children to be good stewards.

    Everyone learns at their own speed so be patient and supportive.

    Thanks for the good video.

  8. Great video and thanks.

    BUT, you did NOT cover SOLO fishing and how to photo your Treasure when alone. I do 90% of my fishing solo and fish upwards of 4 days of week year round.

    Also, according to my local CA F&G Bio, DEET or any other bug repellent that is on your hands will ultimately KILL a catch faster than anything. So, handling a fish if you have sprayed yourself with bug juice is more toxic to the fish than anything one could ever think of doing.

    Thanks again for your suggestion.

  9. Just admit it. It’s all about ego. There’s a reason it’s called a “hero shot”. And no, you can rationalize all you want, but as a fish biologist, I guarantee you it is not okay for the fish. Be an a-hole if you want, but don’t pretend you’re give a darn about the fish.

    • Wow Man! Not sure where this attitude comes from. I’ve watched the stocking trucks chuck fish off of bridges plenty of times. Aren’t those hatcheries run by fisheries biologist?

  10. So my guide in Alaska said to keep the fish in the water on his side while the photographer gets the camera ready. When the photographer says lift you move the fish out of the water turning it on its side for the shot. Keep your fingers under the belly with a little pressure by your thumb to hold the fish steady. Quickly put it back in the water holding it till it’s ready to swim free. Takes about 3 seconds. The key is holding it on its side before lifting.

  11. Great information and well written. I’m not against taking pictures if it’s a special occasion or fish. However, my usual personal practice is don’t. They are more beautiful while in the water and if I can release one without handling it, so much the better.

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