Have you ever thought “I saw my fish swim away so it must be fine”? Unfortunately some of the catch-and-release science is showing that this isn’t always the case.
Tropical flats are my happy place. I love nothing more than wading and looking for bonefish, or any other flats species for that matter. While catching a fish is the ultimate goal, a big part of my career has also been spent studying what happens to fish that are released. It doesn’t take a genius to know that releasing fish (as opposed to keeping them) means more fish to be caught another day, but the science of studying the specific fate and health of fish that have been released has only gained momentum in last several decades. The work, however, has grown rapidly and there are now over 400 studies published on catch-and-release. Many of these studies are full of insight and tips that the average angler could use, but the information is locked away in documents that are expensive to access and written in a technical language that even puts many scientists to sleep.
One of the big goals of Keepemwet Fishing is to unlock that science and make it more accessible to anglers. Think of Keepemwet Fishing as a bridge between the fisheries science and the angling communities. What’s also important to this movement is that communication and information sharing goes both ways - anglers learn more about fisheries science, and scientist learn about the issues that matter most to anglers, which, in turn, helps inform future catch-and-release research. We see anglers as being on the front lines of fish conservation. Every time you catch a fish, it’s an opportunity to put conservation into practice by using science-based best handling techniques, and give your fish the best chance of survival and a healthy life after you release it.
We have distilled the principles for best practices down to three short phrases that can help anglers remember what to do. Our principles encompass actions that create the best outcomes for fish that are caught-and-released.
Minimize Air Exposure
Fish need oxygen just like us, but they get it from the water, not air. Air exposure is much more detrimental to bigger fish, and at higher water temperatures.
Eliminate contact with dry and hard surfaces
Fish need their slime the same way we need our skin. Dry, rough, and hard surfaces remove the slime from fish and can also remove scales and damage fins.
Reduce handling time
Handling is the time from landing to release, including how the fish is restrained (i.e. in your hands or a net). Multiple studies have shown that longer handling times can lead to poorer outcomes after release.
None of this is rocket science; each of these principles are simple and doable by any angler no matter their skill level or the fishing situation. Most importantly, each one is backed by science and will make a difference to the fish that you catch-and-release.
Sascha’s 7 Tips for Better Fish-Friendly Photos
Keep the fish in the water.
A fish photographed in the water or dripping wet often looks more realistic and less like the dead slab photos your grandfather used to show you.
Get everything set up.
Whether you plan to do an in water or above water shot, make sure the photographer has the everything ready to go before you lift the fish.
Limit air exposure.
Hold your breath when you take the fish out of the water; when you need to breathe the fish probably does too. Don’t let your fish drip dry. Water dripping off a fish adds life and dimension to the photo.
Consider all the angles.
Sometimes the best photos don’t look like the classic ‘grip and grin’. Fish angled diagonally look great. Also, try getting your camera as close to the water as possible.
Purchase a waterproof case.
Not only will this case keep your camera and phone safe, it will allow you to take underwater as well as partially submerged photos.
Break out the selfie stick.
While shunned in many places, selfie sticks are great for taking photos of fish, especially from a boat. Professional photographers often use selfie sticks to get interesting shots.
Go it alone.
Hold your fish by the tail or keep it in the net with the camera angle low to get a good shot.