Over the course of the last few decades, releasing fish has become an increasingly common practice. Whether by choice or by regulation, many anglers regularly release fish. In both cases the objective is to return a healthy fish to the water.
Mishandling a fish by placing it on dry surfaces like a riverbank or exposing it to air for an extended period of time can impact fish health. Just because a fish swims away doesn’t mean that it has quickly recovered from capture and handling. Impacts can range from short-term impairment of swimming to delayed symptoms such as reduced fertility and even mortality.
Keepemwet applies to fish not kept for harvest. While the impacts of fish handling vary with every species and every scenario, the keepemwet principles are a universal baseline of best practices that keep fish healthier and should always be used when releasing fish.
Lee Wulff famously said, "The finest gift you can give to any fisherman is to put a good fish back." We believe that if you are going to put that gift back, you should want it to be in the best possible condition. By doing so, you are keeping fish healthier, strengthening our fisheries, and helping ensure anglers will have the opportunity to catch fish for years to come.
Thanks to advances in science, we now have a better understanding of the impacts that handling can have on the long-term health of fish. We believe that anglers have the responsibility to apply this knowledge to their fish handling practices and should strive to minimize the impacts on the fish they release.
Keepemwet Fishing doesn't believe in casting stones. Instead, we believe in mindfulness and positive progress. We know that we have all been guilty of mishandling fish in the past and recognize that we will likely err in the future, despite our best intentions. Rather than tearing down others for their missteps, we hope to promote this awareness so anglers are better equipped to properly handle, photograph, and release fish in the future.
We encourage our supporters to share this approach, to lead by example, and to serve as positive influences for other anglers.
It all started with Instagram. That's the place I first noticed hashtags taking off and their great potential to link related topics. What drove me nuts however was how many photos I was seeing of fish up on the dry bank and tagged #catchandrelease. I pondered how many people realized those fish were less likely to survive, yet continued the practice to feed their social media audience. I wondered how many people were drawn to fishing because of the stunning imagery they'd seen online, and viewed this kind of practice as the norm for how C&R works and what it looks like. With camera phones in every angler's pocket and the insatiable expansion of social media, it seemed like catch & release needed a voice; a way of nudging anglers to consider that how they handled & released fish made all the difference in whether they lived or died- despite what the hashtag said.
I recalled a trout photography presentation I'd given years back and one of my sub-titles "Keep 'em Wet". The phrase suggested a primary element of ideal C&R and packed together as a hashtag had a catchy spark to it. I wanted to communicate many things at once, and a fish that was kept wet in the first place would likely avoid many additional negative impacts of handling. So I created a hashtag for my trout and steelhead photos- #keepemwet.
From that time in early 2013 the tag caught on with friends and colleges in fly fishing culture. A bit later a buddy pointed out quarrels breaking out on social media- conflict, name calling and spats over the use of the tag. People were leveling accusations at each other as hypocrites for using the hashtag while also posting photos of fish out of water. The tag was being used as a divisive insult and polarizing the fishing community. I was completely blow away at how out of context and confrontational it was becoming. With the help and encouragement from Paul Moinester, I decided to take ownership of the phrase and it's meaning- as I'd intended it.
We set out to define keepemwet as synonymous with the multitude of science-based principles of catch & release, and assembled a coalition to promote these examples in this new era of social media. We reached out to Dr. Andy Danylchuk, a leading fisheries scientist and professor at University of Massachusetts Amherst. Andy expressed support and enthusiasm for the keepemwet concept and joined the team. I reached out to the many friends at different companies within the fly fishing industry and explained the support we were seeking to promote better C&R practices. Companies, media outlets and conservation organizations joined us left & right. Keepemwet Fishing™ was born.
Looking ahead my hope is for Keepemwet Fishing to unite anglers of all kinds while promoting C&R practices that benefit everyone. In the future I think it can expand beyond fish handling to larger habitat and conservation topics, tying in relationships and becoming a bridge between science and angling communities. Despite the political leanings or stereotype profiles of the vast range of angler groups around the world, they all want to catch more fish, period. Science is revealing new variables that impact overall survival rates, and Keepemwet Fishing wants to cultivate and share that understanding.
Thanks for coming along.