Fish Photo 101

We all love to snap photographs of our favorite fishing moments. What better memento of a great experience on the water than an image of you and the one that didn’t get away?

But if you are a catch-and-release angler, you should know that putting fish back in the water isn’t all there is to it. A lot of fish are unfortunately killed for the camera… mishandled, and released to die out of sight and mind of the angler who didn’t know any better. In that case, he or she would have been better off keeping the fish for the dinner table.

Remember these few tips to ensure a healthy release after you’ve taken your photographs…

First, you should wet your hands before you handle fish. Many species, especially trout and salmon, have a protective slime coating on their bodies. If you rub that slime off with dry hands, the fish become less resistant to diseases.

If you wonder how long it is okay to keep fish out of water, try holding your own breath when you lift the fish out of the water for the photo. Odds are, right around the time you start feeling a bit uncomfortable and need another breath… the fish does too. Keep the fish in the water as you make ready with your camera. Don’t have the fish out of water as you fiddle and focus.

Try to take most of your photos with the fish close to the water. That way, if they flop and fall out of your hands, they won’t be crashing into rocks, the bottom of your boat, or other hard surfaces.

Remember not to pinch, squeeze, or stick your fingers/hands in the gills of fish you plan to release. The gills are very sensitive, and they are critical to breathing.

Lastly, remember to watch your hands! Some fish have sharp teeth, and others have spines that sting, and/or fins that can poke you. Use pliers, release tools (like a Boga-Grip), and/or fishing gloves.

The bottom line is that a fish photo can and should be taken in 10 seconds or less. The best way to get good at taking fish photos is to get good at catching fish! The more subjects and experience you have, the better.

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Kirk Deeter

Kirk Deeter

Kirk Deeter is an editor-at-large with Field & Stream, and he co-wrote The Little Red Book of Fly Fishing with the late Charlie Meyers.