Following the keepemwet principles is something everyone should easily be able to do. All it takes is a little preparation and mindfulness before heading out on a trip and while on the water. By incorporating these tips into regular fishing practices, you can eliminate contact with dry surfaces, minimize air exposure, and reduce handling. This list of tips is by no means exhaustive, but rather a starting point of simple and easy steps every angler can take to keepemwet.
TIP 1: REDUCE ANGLING DURATION
By landing a fish quickly and without playing it to exhaustion, you can dramatically reduce stress the fish incurs. This can be achieved by ensuring tackle is appropriately matched to the targeted species.
TIP 4: FISH BARBLESS HOOKS
Crimp the barbs on hooks. Not only do barbless hooks cause less damage to a fish’s mouth, but they are also much easier and quicker to remove - especially important when one ends up in your ear or finger!
TIP 7: CARRY HOOK REMOVAL DEVICES
Carry easily accessible pliers or other hook removal tools, which enable quick and careful hook removal.
TIP 2: FOLLOW LOCAL REGULATIONS
In some places it is illegal to remove certain species from the water, such as wild steelhead, salmon, and bull trout in Washington. Be aware of these regulations to ensure you are acting in accordance with the law.
TIP 5: FISH WITH NETS
Nets are not always necessary, but often they help land fish quicker and in deeper water. Nets also help reduce handling by allowing you to keep fish in the water while unhooking, reviving, and photographing them.
TIP 8: PHOTOGRAPH WET FISH
Photograph fish in the water. If a fish is momentarily taken out of the water, keep it as close to the water as possible and fully submerge it between pictures to give the fish a quick breather. Ideally, let the photographer call the shots – 1, 2, 3…raise the fish….and click.
TIP 3: HOLD FISH OVER WATER
Fish are slippery creatures and can easily be dropped. So when holding a fish, keep it in or slightly above the water - not over boats or land. That way if dropped, it falls back into the water unharmed.
TIP 6: ONLY USE RUBBER NETS
As opposed to knotted and mesh nets, rubber nets are less abrasive and will not get caught in a fish’s gills. Plus, hooks don't snag as much on rubber nets, and they look great in photographs.
TIP 9: GRIP FISH CAREFULLY
Fish have sensitive internal organs, so hold them lightly without squeezing. Avoid placing your hand over their mouth and gills as it obstructs breathing. With larger fish, grip the tail wrist with "A-Ok" finger formation and gently support the body under the front fins.
TIP 10: CAREFULLY REVIVE FISH
An exhausted fish needs reviving. This can be done in a river by submerging the fish and holding its head facing upstream so that the water runs in the mouth and through the gills. In stillwater situations, move the fish in a figure 8 pattern to simulate this effect. Avoid pulling a fish backwards or pointing it downstream as water moving in the reverse direction can harm fish.
To learn more about the fundamentals of handling fish, check out Dr. Andy Danylchuk's article the The Release – Fundamentals of fish and the path to responsible angling.