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.
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.
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.
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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