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Please hold your fish properly...

Guest Blog by: Rick Schroeder 4/25/2011


I was shown a picture earlier today on how not to hold a fish... the fish was caught on the Dream Stream this weekend, hopefully it will be caught again.  Itís been said and shown before but there is a proper way to hold a fish, which will help the fish survive, to prevent injury, and swim away.  Thanks to social networking and the ease of posting your hero shots on the internet, I am still shocked at some of the handling techniques Iíve seen pictures of.  So here is a quick blog on some dos and doníts on how you should hold a fish for a photo if you are going to release the fish.

DON'Ts

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1.      Don't lay the fish on the dry dirt or gravel.  Fish have a slime coat that protects them from bacterial, parasitic, and fungal pathogens.  Letting the fish flop around on the dry ground removes this coat and leaves the fish unprotected.

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2.      Don't hold the fish with your fingers in his gills.  The gills are how a fish breathes, the take the oxygen from the water and diffuses it into the blood stream.  The gills are delicate fleshy, sheet-like filaments called lamellae and are easily damaged by your finger or other foreign objects like a stringer.  One of the reasons you should never cull a fish that's on a stringer.

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3.      Don't lip the fish.  Grabbing the fish by only its bottom lip with your thumb may damage its jaw muscles and ligaments, thus limiting its ability to feed.  I have seen and caught fish with broken jaws and torn lips, while the fish is still feeding it may not be feeding successfully and getting all the nutrients it requires.

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4.      Don't handle them with dry hands or gloves.  This goes back to removing the slime coat of the fish.  On the tail waters here in Colorado you will see many a fish with fungus growing on them in the shape of a hand or fingers on their backs.  This is from the slime coat being removed from the fish from being handled with non-fishing gloves or dry hands.

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5.      Don't squeeze the fish.  Death gripping the fish can cause all kinds of internal injuries to the fish.  The rib cage and spines of the fish are small and can easily be broke, the fish is use to being in a weightless environment and you just took it out of that.  These broken bones can puncture organs.  Also squeezing too tight can force eggs and other things to come out the fish we don't want.

6.      Lastly, Don't keep the fish out of the water longer then you can hold your breath.  Fish are not getting oxygen when they are out of the water; they need the water to flow over their gills to breath.  So try to keep the fish in the water until you are ready to take the picture.

DOs

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1.      Do avoid handling the fish if you don't have to.  If you can leave the fish in the water and take your photo the better it is for the fish.  So instead of taking a picture of the fish on the dry ground leave him in the water and snap a shot, right him and let him swim away.

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2.      Do leave the fish in the net.  Leave the fish in the net and snap a picture or if you are going to hold the fish the best way is to bring a hand up under the net bag to raise the fish up to take the photograph.

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3.      Do support the fish.  If you are going to hold the fish cradle the fish or hold it with two hands one by its head and the other near its tail.  This will relieve a lot of the stress that is on the fish's spine.  This is more important the bigger the fish is.

4.      Do wet your hands.  Wetting your hands before touching the fish is one of the easiest steps you can take to help protect its slime coat.

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5.      Do set your finger in the corner of the fish's mouth.  Some fish just won't hold still for a picture and can cause you some trouble.  Placing a finger in the corner of the fish's mouth with the hand supporting its upper body can have a soothing effect on the fish.  This should stop it from thrashing around.

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6.      Do have your equipment set up already.  When I fish alone I have a camera and tripod already set up with the timer and ready to go.  If fishing with someone else wait tell they are ready to take the picture before lifting the fish out of the water.  One bonus plus to this is the fish will photograph better dripping wet.

There may be more ways to hold the fish and ways you shouldn't hold a fish, hopefully these guidelines will help some of you.  If you have other suggestions please feel free to share.

Also, the improper holding of fish pictures were taken off Google images search and pictures were edited to only show the fish.

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Rick Schroeder is the creator and founder of Colorado Mountain Fishing.com a website designed for those who share his passion for high country fishing, four wheeling, hiking, camping, and photography. Rick has spent a significant portion of his life in the back country of the United States, starting at a young age in the Scouts, then in the Infantry with the 82nd Airborne, and after the military as a avid fisherman. In the summer months, Rick can often be found in the shadow of one of Coloradoís many fourteeners casting to some hungry cutthroat at one of the many alpine lakes in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. He also spends long hours on the summit of those peaks, capturing those unforgettable panoramas with his trusty Nikon. Rick has had photographs published on multiple websites, CMC books, and American Angler Magazine. During the colder weather, Rick frequently enjoys fly fishing one of the many tail waters in Colorado or using the short rod on the hard water with the South Park Junkies ice team. When heís not wetting a line, Rick works as an IT Professional for the US Army and spends his off time moderating multiple Colorado fishing websites.
Blog content © Rick Schroeder
Member comments
moosegoose, CO   4/25/2011 8:55:41 PM
I think it looks better when you hold it right anyway!!!
 
comedyfisher, CO   4/25/2011 9:57:06 PM
Great job Rick! I think that is important to add that many of the things you pointed out were directly related to the handling of bass vs trout. It is important to remember that trout are different than bass. Preserving the trout we love is a pretty good thing. Thanks again for your great post! Scott
 
FISHRANGLER, CO   4/25/2011 11:50:58 PM
Rick, I hate to be the one to point this out, but you have very nice fish in a "Death Gripping" picture on your home page. Is this the correct way to hold the fish? All good points though.
 
WVU-GUY24, CO   4/25/2011 11:57:58 PM
i do kind of find it funny that the things you are criticizing you can find a few pictures on your homepage of yourself doing those very things...
 
Rick Schroeder (ePiC), CO   4/26/2011 7:14:33 AM
Not sure which pictures you guys are referring too... However these are lesson's learned.
 
Browns Hunter, CO   4/26/2011 7:28:04 AM
Great article and good use of photos, Rick. Good job overall.
 
Rick Schroeder (ePiC), CO   4/26/2011 11:21:36 AM
Fishrangler and WVU-GUY24 after a recent post on the forum I think you are associating my post to the gallery on the main page of this site. I have no control over that gallery or any of the rules of this fishing site. I simply blog here and share what knowledge I can this is not my site, I am just a member like you guys. Hopefully this blog post will help inform some of the gallery's posters on "better" ways to hold the fish for photographing.
 
Tbubb, CO   4/26/2011 2:26:40 PM
The tips are appreciated and I'll improve my techniques- thanks! Do remember though, folks, that some of those pics are taken of fish which are not going to be released anyway and are not going to survive.
 
Coyute, CO   4/26/2011 2:35:15 PM
Thanks for the info. I think they are referring to your 'bio' page - not the public on the main page. I thought the same thing. http://www.fishexplorer.com/co/edhome.asp?ed=664
 
Monterey, CO   4/26/2011 3:01:21 PM
Excellent write up! I had no idea about about putting your finger in the corner of the fishes mouth to get it to settle down. I'm going to have to try that one.
 
Rick Schroeder (ePiC), CO   4/26/2011 4:50:09 PM
Coyute, ahhh for the record I usually only harvest fish when I'm camping it saves on weight. Not all fish I photograph make it back to the water.
 
masteroftheloch, CO   4/26/2011 6:47:26 PM
I dont agree with your blog. Yes you do have pictures showing poor handling techniques yourself. I feel one shoud not write an article knit-picking others to try make themselves stand out. If you want to be a journalist than that is one thing, but do it by writting something people want to read about like patterns, techniques, and destinations. I see to many fisherman who want to be journalists and try to make a name for themselves by writting articles and blogs re-hashing the same old sorry subject. Fish are fiesty and slippery and dont seem to have the "desire" to hold still for a quick snapshot. I know I have caught fish that I was proud of that I ended up taking home to eat, and some of those fish had their picture taken. So it is stubborn and vicious to write a blog or article that accuses people of doing something wrongfull, when it just cannot be proven. ( come up with something original)
 
KingFisher13, CO   4/26/2011 7:56:33 PM
Good stuff Rick, and important. To some of the posters above.. There is a big difference between Sqeezing the fish, and holding it by (a wet) hand. Hard to tell from a picture how tightly a fish is being held.. I've learned proper handdeling of fish over the years, but posts like this are great for those who don't know. Also, Rick tought me the thumb/finger in the mouth trick years ago, and it's helped w/ a ton of photos over the years.. and saved me from dropping fish Rick's not the type to knitpick or accuse. He goes out of his way to help people as much as possable be better, and more responsable anglers. A few years ago, this post would've really helped me out, an even today, it's a good reminder. I'm sure plenty are reading it now, and have learned something. I think the best thing about FX are the blogs, and the maps. Please don't ruin it by discouraging people who are taking their own time to post something for the good of our fisheries..
 
TJack, CO   4/26/2011 8:19:28 PM
Jamesp well said, I learned from this blog as I'm sure others have and many others will. You can't take those internet tough guys serious though, just gotta let the haters hate. If he knows so much about fishing maybe next time instead of taking 5 minutes to bash on someone for trying to help others he will write up his own informative blog about fishing. Thanks again for the blog Rick, don't let the haters bring you down.
 
FISHRANGLER, CO   4/27/2011 8:11:10 AM
The holding of fish in pictures right or wrong hits a sore spot with me and people telling others they should do it this way or that way. Most of these pictures are from armature's and the catching of the fish also is from beginners they get slammed for posting the fish picture when all they were trying to do is share a happy day.That has ran off more posters then anything eles I have seen here. There is no hating coming on from me. Lets just make that very clear. I was pointing out a inconstancy in your Bio page is all. And you cleared that up. So, lets move on. There are many ways to hold a trout. And trout are the worst when it comes time for there image to be taken. The beat way is not to hold them at all. IMO Not so much in the past, but these days I try very hard to do most of the releasing without using a net and if a net is needed then I do the releasing of trout, from hook ,while still in the net.
 
Rick Schroeder (ePiC), CO   4/27/2011 9:00:36 AM
No worries man... I looked at my bio page and I'm not death gripping any of those fish. The ones I am cradling with one hand are note being squeezed hard... The point of this blog post was just to help give people options on how to hold a fish so it has a better chance of survival, that is all.
 
culinarypunk, WY   4/27/2011 10:37:23 AM
Rick, another awsome blog, thank you for all the info you have givin me in such a short time blogin here!
 
troutman555, CO   5/16/2011 5:28:57 PM
I like this post man. Good work.
 
ThoseGuys26, CO   5/17/2011 10:30:22 AM
It''s a good post. Most people don't learn these techniques for years so you probably helped save a bunch of fish with this post. I didn't always know how important it was to wet your hands when handling a fish. I have pictures from the past where I was not properly handling fish, I'm sure we all do, so these are lessons learned and I'm betting you just helped some others learn 'the easy way'. Cheers
 
TheDustyOne, CO   5/17/2011 7:32:03 PM
So, now I'm confused. I thought I WAS doing the right thing by lipping bass. That way I don't tear their mouth with the hooks, I don't let them flop around on the bank or boat and hurt bones or organs, and I only touch their lip leaving the slime coat intact. I also thought that by lipping them this way, some nerve was pinched thereby "paralyzing" them until the jaw was closed. I've been doing this for years... So this has been wrong?? Well... I'm glad I read this.
 
redleader, CO   5/18/2011 10:13:21 AM
I see anglers holding large fish by their gills commonly and also just saw one weighing a large fish by hanging it off their scale, so much easier to just weigh it in the net or a bag, and guys gills aren't handles wtf one of the biggest catch and release nonos guys pay attention, also removind trebles and going with single barbless is very helpful.
 
Rick Schroeder
"ePiC"
Guest Blogger