In the past, we’ve ran a few posts on taking better fish photos, some of which have become our more popular posts of all time. After all, who doesn’t love a good hero shot. For the most part, these posts have touched on areas like composing a quality fish photo or taking photos with the fish’s best interest in mind (ahem, click the links to learn more).
However, until now, we haven’t ran much in the way of the pose. That is, how to hold a fish in a way that is not only safe on the fish, but also results in a great shot. While it might seem like a mute point, our experience of watching others handle fish would say otherwise!
We’ve all caused the dreaded ‘fumble’ from time to time. Its just a fish’s way of reminding us that we, as anglers, will never beat the fish. However, aside from resulting in goofy photos, fumbling fish around can lead to injured fish, so its important to strive to keep the fumble to an absolute minimum. Ever wonder why fish seem to calm right down when your guide takes a hold? Most likely he’s not whispering to the fish, but he might be using some of the following tips.
- Relax. Okay, after a long fought battle, the fish is in the net, and the stressful part is over. Take a deep breath! All too often we see anglers rush to the net full of adrenaline, hoist the fish into the air with shaky hands, only to drop it back into the water. Relax and get yourself into position using the next few tips.. You got this!
- Grab the wrist of the tail FIRMLY. The tail is by far the best area to control the fish. Make sure to establish a good hold of the tail while the fish is still in the water, BEFORE you cradle under the fish’s belly with your other hand. We see many folks shyly grab a hold of the tail, allowing the fish to slip free once lifted out of the water. More damage is done to the fish on the drop than would have been done by grasping the tail too hard.
- Flare the pectoral fins. As you cradle under the fish’s belly, slide your hand all the way up to the pectoral fins, enough to cause the fins to ‘flare.’ We’re not sure why, but this causes the fish to relax long enough for a quick photo. Give it a try, it really works!
- Don’t squeeze the belly. Cradle.. Don’t squeeze. When a fish starts to wriggle, many folks squeeze the body of the fish attempting to ‘hold on.’ Squeezing a fish like so, is not only bad for the fish, it doesn’t usually help. Grab a bar of soap and squeeze it hard for a good grip.. Make sense? Use your ‘tailing’ hand to control the fish and your other hand to ‘cradle’ or support it.
- Less Fingers. Aim to hold the fish so that as much of the fish as possible can be seen. Unless handling very large fish, this usually means both hands on the backside of the fish (both palms facing the camera). However, wrapping your fingers around the fish can still hide a good deal of the fish making for a sub-par photo. Instead, try tucking your fingers of your ‘cradle’ hand under the belly of the fish, and using only a couple fingers to hold the tail, as opposed to your whole hand (see photo below).
- Get your hold under water. Get situated while the fish is in the water. After all, the fish is comfortable there. Trying to get a better ‘grip’ while the fish’s head is out of water is a great way to fumble.
- Dip and lift. Once everything is ready to go, the camera is ready, and you have a good comfortable hold on the fish, lift the fish just above the water (or half in for a cool perspective), and snap the photo. If the photo went well, send him on his way! If not, set the fish right back into the water, get ready for another lift, and repeat. Not only does the ‘dip and lift’ keep the fish out of the water as little as possible, the water dripping off of the fish makes for some great photos.
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