I have been fishing as a professional since I was about 12 years old. I worked the decks of the party boats (when that was a thing). I worked the decks of commercial boats long-lining tuna, salmon fishing, halibut fishing and crabbing. I worked offshore in southern California were I would live on board with clients/guests for 5 or 6 days at a time. Now I find my self making a living fishing Kokanee, King Salmon, Trinity River Steelhead while fly fishing the Lower Sacramento in my drift boat.
There are common threads that tie all of the fisheries I work on together. One is definitely photographs. After the fish has fed our family or the wild steelhead head has been released we are only left with the memories of that moment. For some they are few for others they bleed together and loose there sharpness. Facts and details fade. The vividness of color is lost and they become stories told to our children around smoldering campfires or to put it in modern context, in between sessions on the Xbox during cold winter nights! Hah!
The photos we take are priceless and are coveted for generations. In 2019, phones on our cameras capture these moments at will. That being said the art of a great fish picture seems to be almost a lost art.
There are 2 basic pictures one being a fish we will kill and eat the other one we will return to the water to fight again.
First: Photographing The Fish We Keep
Let’s start with the first, the fish we intend to bring home. A fish or any animal we have killed should always be represented well and shown with honor. A proper photo should not show blood, missing scales, damage or loss of color. To reduce these problems it is important to always take the picture soon after the fish is landed not at the end of the day after 6 hours in a cooler. Wipe blood in one direction to keep scales intact there is always a cleaner side so pick the better side for your picture. Next we all know holding your fish away from your body makes the fish appear larger. You should do this! Not to show off, if you think your fooling anyone, you are not. And if you the viewer think your Sherlock Holmes because you figured out the 18 inch Kokanee Salmon is not 20lbs, well you can see that improper fish presentation is not very sincere. Nothing is more sincere than an honestly rendered catch.
We have an obligation to represent the fish in the best light possible there is a way to hold the fish out and not look like your show boating. First weather you like your fish parallel or horizontal always hold it up high but never block your face. Hide your hands and your finger to the best of your ability. And SMILE! Show some teeth let the world know you are happy and proud of yourself! We are not MMA fighters. Know one will think your cool by giving a blank stare at the camera as you hold your trophy trout at the family reunion at Lake Shasta.
Next get close to the camera, fill the picture with fish and smile always! Capture both face and fish in every photo. Never cut out the fish or the face of your subject. Way to meany pictures are taken to far away it makes it very hard to see the fish and is not pleasing to the eye.
Next: The fish we will release.
We must always take extra care of these fish keeping it in the water is preferred if you are going to lift it do not squeeze the belly. They are not designed to take pressure. Holding a large, 20″ plus fish out of the water can do major damage to organs. and, they don’t have eyelids! Take your photo in the shade if possible.
But all the same rules apply be sure to be aware of lighting take several pictures at different angles. Pic your best one. So meany great fish are caught and the pictures are a disgrace. For some reason people down play good fish pictures but they’re the ones that look bad. No one cares how many you caught that day. You don’t need to hang them on a stick to prove to the world you got your limit. It’s not that important. What matters is that “one picture”. That one fish that changed your life. Made you feel alive! Display the happiness and sense of accomplishment. Show some pride and some respect for the life that was taken. Take great fish pictures and keep those memories for ever.