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 helpful 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 physical 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
If a fish can not swim away on it's own it may need 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.
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.
When it comes to handling fish that we plan to release, a few basic practices will go a long way. Same goes for capturing that moment in photographs. Here are a few simple things to consider the next time a fish comes to hand and the camera comes out.
Make sure your camera is ready to go! Keep your camera easily accessible and make sure that it has plenty of battery, storage capacity, and that settings for the current conditions are correct. This will enable you to quickly photograph your fish and then release it.
“Three, two, one, lift, and click!” Counting down your shots means that fish are out of the water for less time. Have the angler take a knee and keep the fish submerged as the camera focus and settings are dialed in, then communicate when everything is ready. Wet fish are dripping fish (#wetfishdrip) and, as shown in the image above, it’s a great indicator that a fish has not been out of the water long.
There are times when conditions simply will not allow for a photo, and that releasing a fish soon as possible is the priority. Maybe you choose not to take a photo because the water is especially warm, the fish is deeply hooked, or there are lots of predators in the area. Knowing what conditions can adversely affect the fate of released fish is just as important as knowing the best practices for catch-and-release.
Check out more photography tips and creative suggestions from the Keepemwet Fishing Ambassador team in this article.