Underwater Photography and Fish Conservation

It is difficult to understand fully the underwater world. For the most part, we are left with a fleeting glimpse of a dark shape slipping between rocks in the river, a blip on a screen from a depth/fish finder, or maybe we actually get to land a fish and pose for a quick “grip and grin” shot before releasing it back into its mysterious domain.

Underwater photography can help us get a better handle on the big, wet picture. To view a fish on its own terms, underwater photography requires special equipment and great patience. Some fishing shows manage to capture and incorporate videos by having divers or underwater video cameras mounted on sticks or towed in front of lures.

With this unique perspective, we can improve our understanding of this environment by viewing such things as vegetation type and concentration, substrate particle size, submerged structures, relative fish densities, and other species they may associate with.

We can use this information to help fishing conservation practices and monitor how sustainable the fishery is. For example, noted underwater photographer, Eric Engbretson, has noticed a surprising decline in the size of pan fish.

“I spend 70-90 days a year in lakes taking fish pictures. That’s a lot of time underwater where I observe many fish. In an average year, in dozens of different lakes, I might see only one or two 12 inch bluegills a year. That’s how rare they are.”

He also shared that fish managers in Wisconsin lakes have noticed this drop in the quantity of larger pan fish. One possible reason is due to the pressure on the “size structure” from continued angler preference of mainly the largest pan fish. Because of information like this, fisheries managers are constantly tweaking regulations to maximize angler enjoyment but yet keep the fish population healthy and sustainable.

The technology now exists to help us view fish, not just out of water. We no longer have to rely on an artist’s interpretation. These images help us fully appreciate and thus protect all things underwater. Not only does underwater photography help water get the attention it deserves but it excites viewers to get more involved with the activities of fishing and boating which contributes to protect and conserve our fisheries and waterways. The best way to be part of the movement is to make sure you have a fishing license.


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Andy Whitcomb

Andy Whitcomb

Andy Whitcomb is a columnist, outdoor humorist, and stressed-out Dad. He says there are “people who fish”… and there are “fishermen”.  One of the few things he knows is that he is a “fisherman”...  To the point it could be classified as borderline illness.  Sharing this obsession is rewarding, therapeutic. He likes to encourage people to “stop and smell the crappie."  Enjoys catching fish, but gets a greater thrill out of helping someone else hook up.
Born in Florida, but raised on the banks of Oklahoma farm ponds. Now relocated to western Pennsylvania. He has fished, worked, lived all around the US.  He has a B.S. in Zoology from Oklahoma State as well...
And he met his wife while electrofishing. He has been contributing weekly to www.takemefishing.org since 2011.