How To Properly Hold A Fish (And Why It’s So Important)

Alright, we’ve been silent too long, it’s time to put a stop to the madness and clear something up once and for all: Yes, there is a wrong way to hold a fish and we’re seeing it way too often. Social media is great for bragging to your buddies about your godly fishing skills and how the mere mortals around you can’t compete, but it’s all moot if you’re not holding the fish properly. Before you think I’m nit-picking here, this is a serious matter–you’re putting fish at risk.

Learn How To Properly Hold Your Catch
The best way to hold up a fish is to not even hold it at all.

What You’re Doing Wrong

We’ve been seeing a lot of people hold their fish one-handed, putting way too much pressure on the fish’s middle by squeezing too tight in order to compensate for the loose grip. Sure it’s possible to hold a fish one-handed, as long as you’re keeping your hand open, rather than try to squeeze them to keep them steady.

The orientation also matters a lot when holding up a fish. I cringe every time I see someone hold up a fish vertically, whether it’s a trout, a striper or a largemouth bass. A fish’s jaw isn’t meant to support their entire weight, no matter how cool it looks to fist pump while you’re waving around the fish, holding it by the bottom lip. A fish that is able to swim away unharmed, reproduce, and sustain the population is a much cooler thing to see. Always hold fish horizontally.


Hold Fish Properly To Keep Them Healthy
Holding a fish properly means you may drop it from time to time, but that’s a small price to pay for a healthy fish population.

Why It Matters

Listen, I’m sure there are a few of you out there that think this unnecessary. You might be saying things like, “The fish are swimming away after I’ve held them,” or “what about the bass guys that throw fish back into the water after shaking them around like they’re fist pumping?” Yea, I don’t approve of that either. Sure the fish may be swimming away after mishandling them, but they could be stressed or in a vulnerable state for a while afterward. That puts them at risk from a predator more than ever before or could prevent them from spawning if it’s that time of the year. All I want is a healthy fishery for everyone.

Don't Squeeze Fish When You're Holding It
Holding a fish one-handed is ok as long as the fish is small and you don’t squeeze the fish.

How To Do It Right

There’s a reason you’ve been seeing more #keepemwet hashtags all over social media, and that’s the best case scenario for showing off your fish. Half and half shots and drip-and-grins look beautiful and keep the fish wet. If you must take the fish out of the water, have your camera buddy keep track of how long you have the fish out of the water, an easy trick is to hold your breath while the fish is out of the water, when you feel like you need to take a breath, put the fish back in the water for a bit before you take more shots.

If you absolutely have to hold the fish out of the water, make sure it’s not very high and use both hands. Two hands are going to be the best way to hold up a fish for a photo, that way their entire body is better supported, rather than bending unnaturally in the middle. Just remember to get them back in the water as soon as possible, and that a few likes on Instagram aren’t worth the health of fish populations in your local waters.

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6 thoughts on “How To Properly Hold A Fish (And Why It’s So Important)

  1. Bob Mutch May 16, 2017 / 3:11 am

    Some of the worst examples of poor fish handling come from commercial TV shows where they hold the fish out of the water practically forever while they talk about “what a great fish.” These shows should represent the best of fish handling technique, not the worst. Keep the fish in the water!!

    • Never caught a fish in my life July 23, 2018 / 4:23 pm

      The only reason most pictures are taken of any fish is to be somewhat of a braggart about your angling experience. How about we try to be not only ethical anglers, but true sportsman that enjoy & respect nature without the need for praise or being braggart of any catch. Try it sometime- it is actually very rewarding to be the only one around while being bowed up on a nice one and to know if you keep it to yourself you can return and do it again without the torment of a greedy crowd that you’ve invited via Facebook, Instagram, etc. ,because you just had to massage your ego.

  2. Ken July 25, 2018 / 2:03 pm

    My perspective after 55 years fishing – nobody cares about your fish picture but you. If you’re going to take the fish do whatever you want, but don’t pretend you are a conservation minded fisherman if you have to prove your skill by stressing the fish. Nobody believes it.

    Handle them the least amount possible. If nobody believes that 24” story that can be their problem.

  3. Wayne Boon July 25, 2018 / 7:42 pm

    Hi Ben,

    I absolutely love this “how to correctly hold a fish” article bro!! It’s something we’ve been preaching for years regardless of the specie of fish one angles for…
    I’m certainly not trying to plug anything here, just reinforcing your P.O.V. on this very important subject; There are many great examples of safe and correct fish holds involving fantastic specimens up over 40 lbs on the Instagram site below for those that are interested…

    Regardless of what species we all individually fish for, this important issue (the care, respect and love we all show for our fish and promoting great stewardship of our waters) at the very least, should band us all together… Tight lines guys & gals…

    Wayne Boon
    American Carp Society – Founder

  4. Joe Urbani December 9, 2018 / 3:03 am

    As a fish biologist, my studies have proved that keeping Fish out of the water too long after catching, will have long term, detrimental effects. Not only internal damage (from squeezing too hard) that may not show up for 2 to 4 weeks and cause morality, but fungus on their exterior, caused by human hands, that may also cause death but certainly disturbs spawning activities.

  5. Kirk January 21, 2019 / 9:24 pm

    Well, then why fish at all!! Like setting any hook doesn’t cause them stress! You can’t be serious. Certainly, I’m not for holding them out the water for extended periods of time.

    Please…just use good common sense and your fish should be OK. Certainly, there are fatalities with fishing. It just happens. To them, they are fighting for their life from the time the hook gets set until we release.

    Get a quick pic and let’em Go!

    Let’s keep Political Correctness off the bank and instill good common sense.

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